Having a target on your back in the NHL is a tricky business and the Phoenix Coyotes have dropped the ball so far in March.
After an unbelievable February in which the team went 11-0-1, the Coyotes have dropped two bad losses in a row to teams they could have — and should have — beaten.
When the win streak finally concluded with Thursday’s loss to Calgary, I figured it was time for a bad game. No one likes them, but they are an inevitable fact in sports. Things happen, mistakes are made and no one is perfect. They still held the Pacific Division lead, so there was really no damage done.
But Saturday, the Coyotes blew an opportunity. When every team in the NHL is keeping an eye on your play, you can’t drop bad games. Getting beat by a team in a tough battle is one thing, but visibly being the worst team in a loss is another.
The 5-2 loss to Columbus even left head coach Dave Tippett what is going on with a team then went from white-hot to ice-cold in a 48 hour period.
“It was not good enough,” he said. “There was an emotional engagement that we can bring in for a short period. Why don’t we have that the whole time? That’s puzzling for our group right now.”
No surprise, but Tip hit the nail on the head. The Coyotes win games because of their emotional play and tight-knit group. They don’t have star power or a true “wow” player and that’s fine. Hockey is a sport that must be played with emotion in every shift, or the guy who wants it more is going to run all over you.
The lack of energy and effort in the first period Thursday was understandable. Maybe coming down off of the win streak-high or just a natural slump. But Saturday, it was again another lackadaisical team who took the ice and another hole for the Coyotes to dig themselves out of.