Arizona Coyotes shut out again despite continued shot advantage
GLENDALE, Ariz. — There’s irony to be found in the Coyotes’ first four games of this season.
The numbers show that the Coyotes have had the shots on goal advantage in all four games they’ve played. Their share of the total shots on goal in a game this season is top five in the league, according to Natural Stat Trick. They’ve outshot opponents 146-93 so far.
The Coyotes have also been shut out three times in four games on the season, most recently in a 3-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Gila River Arena on Saturday night.
Arizona led shots on goal, 36-23.
“We have a lot of shots, but I don’t think we have second or third [chances],” Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta said. “We don’t get those rebounds or like that. So even though their goalie played a great game, but I think we’re also making the goalies look really good right now and I think we have to get a little bit more that eye-of-the-tiger in front of the net and those pucks in.”
With the Sabres in town, it’s tempting to reflect on the Coyotes’ well-documented bad luck in NHL Draft lotteries.
Buffalo boasts Jack Eichel, who was drafted second overall in 2015, when the Coyotes didn’t win the draft lottery. They also have Rasmus Dahlin, who was drafted first overall in 2018, when the Coyotes didn’t win the draft lottery. And while the Coyotes were playing Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews scored his tenth goal in six games on the season, his third year after being drafted first overall in 2016, when the Coyotes didn’t win the draft lottery.
But poor luck in lotteries cannot be used as a shrug-your-shoulders excuse as to why the Coyotes are 1-3-0. Arizona’s current personnel has shown capable of generating chances this season, but is also not finishing on those scoring opportunities.
“We’re getting 30-plus — I mean if we’re not getting our chances, we’re not getting shots, then I’d be worried, in the sense I’ve got to look and start moving [lines].” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “But you can’t keep moving lines every time because you’re not scoring. You’re getting chances and shots, but a guy hits a [goalie] in the logo. Some guys, you’ve got to pick the corner.”
It also hasn’t helped that Arizona has faced strong goaltending in Dallas’ Ben Bishop (who won the NHL’s Third Star of the Week just days later), John Gibson twice (who has a .944 save percentage this year) and, on Saturday, Linus Ullmark, who made his season debut and stopped all 36 shots.
Raanta stopped 20 of the 23 shots he faced. Arizona gave up the game’s first goal to Dahlin when Jeff Skinner got around the Coyotes’ defense and managed to work the puck behind Raanta in the crease. Dahlin skated up and pushed it over the line.
Later in the first period, Conor Sheary (who, coincidentally, played for Pittsburgh when Tocchet was an assistant coach there) scored on the power play to make it 2-0, and marking the first power play goal Arizona has given up in 2018-19. At the start of the game, they were one of three teams left in the league to have held opponents scoreless on power plays.
The final goal was in the third period. It was Skinner’s first since he joined the Sabres this offseason, and it was on a partial breakaway as he put it home on the backhand.
“It’s four games in, I know everybody’s frustrated,” Tocchet said. “The coaching staff’s frustrated. Everybody’s frustrated we’re not scoring goals. You’re trying your best to figure it out, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to be able to will yourself a goal.”
The Coyotes still have just two goals this season, both of them came in their only win that was on Wednesday night at Anaheim. They were scored by Dylan Strome and Brad Richardson.
“We have 30-plus shots tonight again and we’re getting there but I’m not sure we have enough players surrounding it,” Oliver Ekman-Larsson said.
Arizona went 0-for-3 on its power play on Saturday.
The Coyotes have a four-game road trip now, with stops in Minnesota, Chicago, Winnipeg and Columbus. Three of those four teams were in the playoffs last year (Chicago).