The Coyotes’ win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night and their loss to Nashville a night later proved that the team’s resilience and overall stability will be key factors for the ‘Yotes during the remainder of the NHL season.
The Coyotes were somewhat in disarray following their loss at home to the Minnesota Wild last Thursday night and, more importantly, the loss of starting goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper due to injury.
Due to their resilience, however, the Coyotes were able to rely on solid netminder Antti Raanta to take control of the reins as the starting goalie for the desert dogs on Sunday evening in the Motor City. They also introduced talented defender Jordan Gross to the NHL and its fans.
There was a lot of aggressive and positive hockey shown by the Coyotes in the Red Wings game, and in any tilt where a team scores 5 goals it usually (but not always, right Minnesota fans!) results in a well-earned victory and two precious points.
A night later in the loss to the Nashville Predators, the Coyotes showed some added discipline and stability in the second and third periods after weathering the first-period storm created by the high-flying Preds’ performance before their home crowd.
Defender Jason Demers returned to the ice in Nashville, replacing rookie Jordan Gross, and that helped bolster the defense. Goalkeeper Antti Raanta played a solid game overall to keep the ‘Yotes within striking distance until the end before succumbing to the streaking Predators 3 to 2.
The contrasts in those back to back games were somewhat stark. Although the Red Wings were on their front skates at the beginning of the game playing at home on Sunday, the Coyotes were able to withstand the Detroit attack and ultimately create their own pressure in the Detroit “O” zone. It paid off, and the desert dogs, for the most part, played disciplined and entertaining hockey within their system.
The Nashville Predators had been on a roll, however, and thus presented a different challenge for the Coyotes from the “get go.” The men in white, however, settled down and played more of their disciplined game rather than chasing the Preds around the ice and seeing how “pretty” they were playing. Demers’ presence certainly helped the back 6, but the Coyotes’ attack finally snapped out of their “watching the Predators” funk and decided to put on an attacking show of their own.
The aggressive action caused Nashville some defensive problems, and the Coyotes’ structured yet creative movement in the Predators’ “D” zone wreaked a bit of havoc upon the veteran team. The ‘Yotes came up a bit short in that contest, of course, but their disciplined play in the latter stages of the game after a somewhat slow “on their heels” start was encouraging.
It now seems evident that the system that Coach Rick Tocchet and his staff has been teaching and enforcing has enabled this blend of veterans and young players to realize that their resilience and never-say-die attitude is a valuable asset. The Coyotes’ collective tenacity and hard work is continuing to pay off as the 2019 part of the 2019-20 season is about to come to an end.
Let’s go Coyotes!