Should the grinding seven-game series with the St. Louis Blues be considered a success from the Arizona Coyotes perspective?
As the entire NHL hockey world knows by now, the Arizona Coyotes and St. Louis Blues just completed an historic seven-game series that had nothing to do with the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Coyotes were able to squeak out a 1 to 0 win on President’s Day in the final game, thus giving them a 4 games to 3 edge in the closely-fought series. But how did the Yotes do overall? Was there any sense of a bigger victory from the standpoint of the teams’ growth and maturity in these contests, regardless of the individual games’ outcomes?
Although the memories of the first games are fading, the St. Louis Blues beat the Coyotes in their initial game at Enterprise Center. It was certainly not wholly unexpected, as the Blues are a very talented team with loads of experience and a great history, and they were playing in the confines of their own arena. It was the subsequent three games that got some concerned attention in St. Louis (and giddiness in Arizona) when the Coyotes had the audacity, skill, and talent to neutralize the Blues’ home ice advantage and win three games in a row.
The Blues, of course, had their opportunity for payback in Arizona and took advantage of it. They reminded the Desert Dogs that they were still one of the big boys in the Honda West Division by humbling them a bit twice at Gila River Arena before losing that final game 1 to 0. The Blues, a proud bunch, played with heart and physicality throughout the series, and that in itself forced the hometown boys to do the same.
But did the Coyotes gain any respect from the Blue Notes and their organization by playing them so competitively? More importantly, did the Arizona Coyotes prove to themselves that their ability to compete with any team in the division is finally before them?
We’d all agree that there was some sloppy and deja vu-inducing thoughts based upon play by the Coyotes, especially in Game 6. Manifested by poor passing, turnovers, inaccurate shooting, and some dumb penalties, there were plenty of opportunities for the Coyotes’ faithful to slap their own foreheads and say “what are you thinking?”.
In the overall series, the Coyotes kept coming in waves with their relentless entries into their “O” zone and displayed much-improved forechecking when they lost the puck. The team’s hustle and physicality is undeniable, and it’s obvious that confidence is up both individually and collectively. These past games have given Yotes players ample opportunity to show how they can contribute to the cause and earn themselves roles in the lineup. The aggressive nature of the team as 5-man units on both ends of the ice has improved, and the Coyotes continued to focus on controlling the puck in the neutral zone. The Coyotes trump card, however, will always be their goalkeeping tandem.
There is plenty of reason for encouragement based upon the overall performance of the Coyotes against the Blues. That experience alone will pay dividends as the season progresses. It will be interesting to see how the Yotes play against the Los Angeles Kings, eh?
Do you feel as though the Coyotes are trending upward? Let me know if you’ve see overall improvement in their play. Let’s go Coyotes!