The Minnesota Wild are currently the best team in the NHL and they showed the Coyotes what a difference a good off-season can make. The Wild simply worked harder and played better than the home team on Saturday night and the Coyotes special team units weren’t up to the challenge. At least Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski put one in to avoid the shutout. Final Score: Wild 4 – Coyotes 1.
Seen: The best team this year
The Wild are the best team the Coyotes have seen this season, plain and simple. They play crisp, aggressive, hard-nose hockey, much like the Coyotes would like to. When looking at the two squads, the Wild played like the Coyotes wanted to on Saturday. Though the effort was palpable from the Desert Dogs, the Wild won more pucks and the game.
“If you dissect the way each of our teams play, there is a lot of similarities,” said head coach Dave Tippett after the game. “The one thing that’s a constant is, if you’re going to be giving up that many attempts at net — we’ve had game where we’ve given up a lot of shots, too — you’ve got to defend well and goaltending has to be strong.”
Heard: Mike Smith takes the blame
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith has struggled in his last two starts. He was pulled after giving up four goals in under 15 minutes in Detroit on Thursday and let in four on Saturday, a few of which could have possibly been saves. “There’s probably a couple he’d like back there,” said Tippett.
Smith shouldered the blame for the loss after the game. He said it was his fault and a Coyotes win relies in him making saves. He only faced 20 shots, but allowed four to get by.
“Your goaltender can win and lose hockey games and, tonight, I lost it for the team,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that. You have to make saves, you have to give your team a chance to win and I didn’t think we were that bad…my game wasn’t where it has to be.”
Observed: Special teams killed the Coyotes
It’s odd. When the Coyotes are playing 5-on-5, they can move the puck and create chances. When they have a man advantage, it looks as if they can’t stay out of each others’ way and struggle to move the puck, let alone score. On the other end, the Coyotes penalty kill is among the best in the league, but gave up three goals on Saturday.
“Our [penalty kill] has been phenomenal all year and has given us chances to win the game and tonight our power play could have helped out and their power play was good,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. “It was a battle of special teams and they won it.”