What a way to start after the All-Star Break, especially on a road trip! The Coyotes have come out with points in each contest, bringing home six over four games. While great to see, it was also incredibly frustrating at points, with blown leads, lifeless defense, and a lack of execution. Yet grit and determination shone through in salvaging at least a point in each contest. The road trip consisted of a Friday night matchup in Chicago, a Saturday showdown in St. Louis, and a Monday night meeting in Nashville. After winning their first game back at home against the Minnesota Wild, the team appeared to be energized and ready to go.
The next two games were almost mirror images of one another. In each the Coyotes came out hot and dominated the first period, only to fall apart with a lack of execution and defense. They would end up tied or behind, being dominated throughout the second period. In the third the offense would come through, and force overtime. Then a quick goal would sink the Coyotes and they’d leave with an OTL and a single point. One could only hope that the Groundhog Day scenario would end in Nashville.
In the Music City, déjà vu starts sinking in as the Coyotes dominate the first period and take the early lead. Just like in the last two games, the Coyotes faltered in the second period and entered the third tied. The Predators forecheck put immense pressure on the Coyotes the entire second period and Arizona only generated two shots. Thankfully, one was put in the net to level the score. But this time the Coyotes broke the time loop and buried two goals, taking the last leg of the road trip in regulation 4-2.
Below are the final scores, three stars, and some ‘Yotes Notes, then we see what the rest of the week holds for the Desert Dogs.
Coyotes vs. Blackhawks:
1st Star: Caleb Jones
2nd Star: Andreas Athanasiou
3rd Star: Seth Jones
Coyotes vs. Blues
1st Star: Calle Rosen
2nd Star: Clayton Keller
3rd Star: Ryan O’Reilly
Coyotes vs. Predators
1st Star: Lawson Crouse
2nd Star: Roman Josi
3rd Star: Matias Maccelli
- Liam O’Brien returned versus Chicago after a 23-game absence. He was juiced and ready to go and played extremely physical, which was missed. Unfortunately, he was scratched the next two games with a day-to-day upper-body injury.
- The Keller, Hayton, and Schmaltz line was dominant. They combined for six goals and 11 assists across the three games. They could go head-to-head with just about anyone in the NHL and give the Coyotes a chance with their talent and chemistry.
- Lawson Crouse came out of the break relatively quiet in the first two games but played better against St. Louis and great against Nashville. Juuso Valimaki and Nick Bjugstad both had good road trips as well.
- Josh Brown was the heavy on this trip. Any time there was a scrum or aggressive play he was in on it.
- The team needs to refocus on execution and defense. Ingram played well against Chicago, and Vejmelka stood on his head against Nashville after a mediocre game in St. Louis. But they were constantly under attack in the 2nd and 3rd periods. It was a terrible showing by Arizona defensively.
- Chychrun only played against Chicago and has been held out since for “trade-related” purposes. All signs point to an imminent trade, although I believe it’s a mistake. With the right mix of free-agent signings, this team could compete for the playoffs next year with the core in place and still develop a deep prospect pool.
- Ryan O’Reilly might be having a down year, but he still schooled the Coyotes in multiple phases of the game. He takes over in OT in the one minute he’s on the ice and buries the game-winner. He won nearly all his face-offs and executed each time the Blues needed him to. He showed how a veteran captain is supposed to take over a game and lead the team to a win. The Coyotes should seriously make a run at him this off-season.
- The Coyotes deserved to lose the two in OT against St. Louis and Chicago. But in all honesty, they should have come out of the break 4-0 with eight points instead of ending up 2-0-2 with six points.
2/15 – vs. Tampa Bay
2/18 – @ Los Angeles
2/19 – vs. Columbus