Arizona Coyotes Play Hard, Win Big in First of 2 vs San Jose Sharks

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Arizona Coyotes step up pace, take care of business at home on Friday night, beating the San Jose Sharks 5 to 2.

In a game where both the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks knew the stakes were high, the Honda West Division combatants battled aggressively from the get go. They hadn’t met since the very first week of the season in January, splitting that pair of games at 1 apiece. “Fast forward” to March 26, and fans witnessed an entertaining game involving goalkeepers Adin Hill and Martin Jones.

Just six minutes and 20 seconds into the first period, Christian Dvorak scored his first of two on the night, with an assist by Conor Garland. It was “Dvo’s” 10th goal.

It initially appeared as if the ice was slanted in favor of the Sharks’ offense early in the first, as they spent a good deal of their ice time in the Yotes’ “D” zone. They weren’t manhandling the Coyotes by any means; the home town boys just didn’t seem to fully have their legs under them yet. About halfway into the period, however, the Yotes settled in and played much better (and physical) hockey, maximizing north-south passes and getting some good looks at Martin Jones.

It was evident that the Desert Dogs came to play though, as they were aggressively forechecking and delivering hits all over the ice while maximizing pressure on the talented Sharks.

This game was not of the “wait and see” variety, but rather a very effective and satisfying “I’m going to hit you now, and I’ll be back later” sort of mindset.

Early in the second period, the tide temporarily turned in favor of the Sharks when Tomas Hertl scored his 10th goal of the season, a short handed tally, when Conor Garland mishandled the puck near the Sharks’ blue line during a power play. The Sharks took advantage of their ensuing momentum for a short while, but the Coyotes were able to handle their unsustained pressure. They continued to play physically and were relentless on the forecheck, which paid dividends at 18:44 into the second stanza when Nick Schmaltz directed a “shot-pass” feed by Ilya Lyubushkin past a helpless Martin Jones for his long-awaited 8th goal of the season.

The Coyotes continued their “O” zone pressure and physicality into the third period, and the Christians, Fischer and Dvorak, pressured a Sharks’ defender into coughing up the puck. At just 7:48 into the third, Dvorak scored his second goal of the game and his 11th overall. Shortly thereafter, at 9:08, Dryden Hunt scored his second goal of the season from a sharp angle to the right of Martin Jones. The Coyotes weren’t done though, and at 9:59 into the third, Phil Kessel rifled a shot past Jones on a power play, scoring his 11th of the campaign.

At 12:30 of the third, Patrick Marleau scored a power play goal after Nick Schmaltz was penalized for boarding. Adin Hill misplayed the puck off the boards and paid the price to a wily veteran, but that was it for San Jose’s scoring this night.

The Coyotes win, coupled with the St. Louis Blues’ 4 to 1 loss at home to the Anaheim Ducks, put the Yotes only 2 points behind the Blues for 4th place.

But let’s put this game into a little more perspective.

It was certainly nice to witness a multi-goal win rather than a typical Coyotes nail-biter. Several different players broke goalless streaks, and others contributed to the cause in various other ways. But Jakob Chychrun may have been injured during the game, which would obviously be a tremendous loss if he misses any time. With Kuemper, Raanta, Hjalmarsson, and Pitlick already on the shelf (or shelves), the Yotes will need reinforcements to help carry the load and stay the course, and we’ll most likely see them in action beginning Saturday night.

Adin Hill has done a pretty good job under less than ideal circumstances, but he can’t be expected to be superman every night. What we need to see is the Coyotes replicating the things they did well Friday evening again on Saturday night. It’s obvious that they still need a lot of work on their dismal power play, but they also need to maintain their drive and discipline for 60 minutes every night.

All they can do, all any of us can do, is take things a day at a time. Let’s hope that this win is the beginning of many better things to come. Let’s go Coyotes!