GLENDALE, Ariz. — Back on Jan. 8, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett talked to his team about the importance of the upcoming portion of the schedule. Arizona had survived a road-heavy slate with too many back-to-back sets and was set to play 14 of its next 18 games at Gila River Arena.
“It’s a major part of our season,” Tippett said. “How we deal with it could really give us a good kick start to the back half of the schedule.”
Instead, the Coyotes have absorbed a good kick in the pants. Following Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Vancouver in Glendale, the Coyotes are 4-7-2 in the first 13 games of that 18-game stretch. Worse yet, they are 3-5-2 at home.
“We’re letting points slip away,” Tippett said Wednesday night. “We know exactly what we have to do and the points we have to gain but it hasn’t been very fruitful lately.”
When the Coyotes started this stretch they sat in second place in the Pacific Division — in playoff position. Following Wednesday’s loss, the Coyotes find themselves in fifth place in the Pacific, five points behind third-place Anaheim and four points behind Nashville and Colorado for the Western Conference’s two wild card spots.
With Calgary coming to town on Friday, the Coyotes are in danger of slipping deeper into the abyss of non-playoff teams.
“Everyone is viewing it the same way now,” captain Shane Doan said. “Teams that are just on the outside are trying to crawl in and we’re trying to get back in ourselves now so we have to find a way to be better.”
The overall effort was better against the Canucks, but as Tippett noted, it should have been because Vancouver had played and won the night before in Denver, leaving it with road weary legs.
On top of that, the Canucks lost a pair of key players in that game against the Avalanche. Center Brandon Sutter suffered a fractured jaw and defenseman Alex Edler suffered a fractured fibula, leaving the Canucks shorthanded for Arizona. The Canucks also lost forward Derek Dorsett to an illness just before the game started.
Arizona outshot Vancouver 34 to 26 but Martin Hanzal’s second period goal was all the Coyotes could muster against goalie Ryan Miller, who improved to 9-1 lifetime against the Coyotes and 6-0 at Gila River Arena.
“You can always sit there and feel sorry for yourself and think you should have won but at the end of the day we only scored one goal and that’s usually not going to cut it,” said forward Max Domi, who set up Hanzal’s goal. “We did some good things tonight but at this time of year, doing some good things isn’t really good enough.”
Tippett has preached repeatedly how the games get tighter after the All-Star break and mistakes get magnified. That was the case on Wednesday when poor defensive zone coverage allowed Jake Virtanen to open the scoring for Vancouver in the first period.
It was even the case on the Canucks’ game-winning goal in the second period — a shot off the stick of right wing Jannik Hansen that bounced off Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy, then off Oliver Ekman-Larsson before it caromed into the open side of the net. The play started with a turnover in the offensive end.
“When you’re not winning you’ve got to make sure you’re doing everything possible to give yourself the best chance to win,” Tippett said. “If two or three of those chances go in for us and we win, a lot of people don’t look at those mistakes. When those chances don’t go in, those mistakes come back to haunt you.”