The Arizona Coyotes need to rededicate themselves to playing their focused and aggressive style of hockey during these two practice days.
Although the Coyotes were able to wrestle a point from the Edmonton Oilers in a game decided by a shootout on Sunday evening, their initial 60-minute play left something, or some things, to be desired.
The Coyotes began the first period with some recognizable, coordinated play via their 5-man zone entries, but it didn’t take them long to have to chase the game following the James Neal power play goal 2:05 into the period. The ‘Yotes eventually got their skates beneath them and were competitive, on and off, throughout the remainder of the game.
Their was inconsistent and sloppy play by both teams, but when your side has players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and James Neal on the ice for extended periods of time, that particular team has quite the advantage.
Nevertheless, two of the standout performers for the Coyotes were goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper and defenseman Alex Goligoski. Kuemper kept the ‘Yotes in the game with some fantastic stops throughout, making 34 of them in all. Goligoski had the unenviable task of marking Connor McDavid during most of the evening and did an outstanding job doing it.
In essence, those pesky Coyotes played their aggressive, forechecking style of blue collar hockey in spurts and certainly caused problems for the Oilers, yet the Edmonton boys were able to tie the score at 3 late in the game, eventually winning it in the shootout.
What must the Coyotes do to prepare for the visiting Anaheim Ducks (11-11-3, 25 points) on Wednesday night, and the San Jose Sharks (13-11-1, 27 points) on Saturday night at Gila River Arena?
By the way, did you know that the Ducks shut out the high-flying New York Islanders 3 to 0 on Monday night, while the Sharks, on a three-game winning streak, beat the L.A. Kings 4 to 3 in OT after leading at one point 3 to 0? Anyway, back to the plan.
First, the Coyotes will need to play true to themselves, that is, play to their strengths. They are a competitive NHL team that “wins by committee.” They have no superstars on their roster, but rather a blue collar “scratchin’ and clawin'” hockey club that earns everything it achieves through well-coordinated, consistent, focused, and aggressive hockey. And they’re exciting to watch!
They need to play in each zone as a unit, maintaining their offensive and defensive structure and assignments without puck watching or poor passing. If part of their system falters and the Coyotes become too much of an unfocused and selfish team, they won’t win. Why not? Because they don’t have the stable of superstar play makers they need every game to succeed by going “rogue” and play outside their system.
The Arizona Coyotes are most effective when they play behind the goal line in their “O” zone on offense. Their collective, effective forechecking causes all sorts of problems for opponents because of their grinding, non-stop aggressiveness. Their constant cycling and changing of directions in dangerous areas wreaks havoc for opposing defenses and makes it hard for them to protect the “house.”
Simply put, when you have possession of the puck your team can dictate play. When you don’t, you have no choice but to react to the opposition and hopefully “time” your chances effectively to regain possession of the puck!
The Arizona Coyotes are a fast, quick, highly-skilled, and relentless hockey team that no one enjoys playing against when they’re functioning well. Their plan is exactly that in the next four days in order to defeat the Anaheim Ducks (7th in Pacific Division) and San Jose Sharks (4th in Pacific Division). Let’s go Coyotes!