Coyotes’ good approach and good fortune yield winning streak
GLENDALE, Ariz. — After getting shut out three times in their first four games, the Coyotes have won four in a row as of Tuesday.
In the sample size of just a few games to start the season, it didn’t seem to panic Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet that they weren’t scoring. “We’ve got to chill out here,” he said, later adding, “You’re getting chances and shots, but a guy hits a [goalie] in the logo. Some guys, you’ve got to pick the corner.” Arizona was outshooting teams each night, but not getting goals.
That problem of getting all the chances with no results seems to have changed.
“We’re going to the net,” Tocchet said Tuesday, explaining that his team has improved at getting bodies to the goaltender. “Plus, the shots, we’re getting some guys — they’re good shots. They’re good shots, they weren’t going in early but they’re picking corners, they’re working on their shots in practice, and I’m a rep guy. Work on your shot in practice, it usually helps in the game.”
With better approach has seemed to come better fortune.
In Arizona’s latest homestand, little-to-nothing has gone wrong. The Coyotes beat Vancouver 4-1 with two shorthanded goals. They beat the then-league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 7-1, again with two shorthanded goals.
And on Tuesday, the Coyotes beat the Senators 5-1, scoring three goals in the first period with one of those coming from the neutral zone to prompt a goaltender change for Ottawa (and that goal was shorthanded).
Ottawa goalie Mike Condon was pulled for Craig Anderson in that first period after Alex Galchenyuk (his first with Arizona), Brad Richardson and Stepan all scored. Richard Panik scored in the second period — his second goal in as many games — answering back just 22 seconds after the Senators got on the board. Panik’s goal made it 4-1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson tacked on a fifth goal in the third period, and Antti Raanta finished with 25 saves.
“Goaltending been great, penalty kill has been awesome, defense playing great giving us a chance to win,” Galchenyuk said. “And it’s in our hands to go out there and provide offense and keep creating and we’ve been doing that. A lot of lines are contributing and we’re winning as a team.”
The results recently have favored Arizona, but so too have its circumstances. Vancouver visited with injuries to young stars Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. Tampa Bay was without Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman and forward Ondrej Palat. Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk is still recovering from injury. And all three of those teams started their backup goaltenders in their visits to the Valley.
This is not to say that the Coyotes are winning on luck. But for every moment of bad fortune the Coyotes had in their first handful of games — when they were getting chances but no puck luck — they’ve gotten back something good lately.
“I didn’t feel a panic in the guys,” Tocchet said. “The one thing we’re hanging our hat on is we weren’t giving the teams much, and the goalies were playing great for us. I thought the D’s been playing good. We just weren’t scoring. Guys just sticking with it, practicing hard, the goals will come.”
The numbers tell an encouraging story for Arizona:
• With Stepan’s shorthanded goal from center ice on Tuesday, the Coyotes have scored six shorthanded goals in 2018-19, which leads the NHL. Last year, they had just two, which was the fewest in the league.
• Arizona has scored 27 goals in its last six games after scoring just three goals in its first five games.
• The Coyotes have outscored opponents 16-3 on this homestand, which as two games remaining.
• They have not scored fewer than three goals in a game since the first contest on their recent road trip, a game at Minnesota on Oct. 16, six games ago.
• On defense, the Coyotes had allowed the fewest goals per game (2.00) in the NHL entering their game Tuesday.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve got some guys that have loosened the grips of their sticks a little bit and making some more plays and getting some more clean looks,” Derek Stepan said.
“We’ve got a good mojo going,” Tocchet said. “We don’t want to wreck it right now.”
The Coyotes have two games left on their current homestand, hosting the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday for Jordan Martinook’s first visit to his old team. Then on Tuesday, the Coyotes will host the Philadelphia Flyers.
After that, they’ll head out on the road for four games on the east coast.