Special teams play letting Coyotes down at home
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rick Tocchet was lamenting his team’s lack of a home identity on Friday afternoon. The Coyotes showed one on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but it wasn’t the one their coach wanted.
Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds scored power-plays goals and the Flyers took advantage of the Coyotes’ Gila River Arena Achilles heel to post a 4-3 shootout win.
The Coyotes entered the game with the NHL’s worst home power play (11.1 percent) and the league’s 28th ranked home penalty-killing unit (76.2 percent). The home special teams went from bad to worse against the Flyers.
Giroux erased an early 1-0 Coyotes lead when he ripped a one-timer past Antti Raanta off a cross-ice feed from Jakub Voracek at 10:19 of the first period on a Flyers power play. Michael Raffl gave Philadelphia a 2-1 1:22 later.
After the Coyotes tied the game 24 seconds into the second period on a soft Alex Goligoski goal, Derek Stepan took a hooking penalty and Wayne Simmonds redirected Shayne Gostisbehere’s shot from the point for a 3-2 Philadelphia lead at 2:12.
The Coyotes have done themselves a favor this season by staying out of the penalty box. Entering Saturday’s game, they had taken the second fewest penalties in the league (164), but the disparity between their penalty kill at home and on the road is odd.
Arizona entered Saturday’s game seventh in the NHL in road penalty-killing percentage (82.4 percent). It’s a similar story for their power play, which ranked fifth in the NHL in road percentage at 22.5 percent.
“I don’t know what you could attribute it to but I always say that sometimes you get comfortable at home,” defenseman Jason Demers said. “You think it’s going to be a little easier at home because you’ve got that home-ice advantage but it’s all the more reason to be more diligent.”
Arizona went 0 for 2 on the power play against Philadelphia, although one of those opportunities only lasted 16 seconds. That said, it ended quickly because Richard Panik had to take a holding penalty to thwart a shorthanded Sean Couturier breakaway.
On the flip side, the penalty killing allowed two goals on four Philadelphia chances.
“The Flyers have a really good power play,” Tocchet said of Philadelphia’s seventh-ranked unit. “A couple blown coverages, but that’s something that we’re going have to straighten out here as we start this process.”
Had the Coyotes played even hockey with those two units, they might have eared a better fate against the Flyers.
“The special teams can win and lose you games,” Tocchet said.