Previous fortunes escape Arizona Coyotes in poor homestand
GLENDALE, Ariz. — There was a time, about a month ago, when seemingly everything was clicking for the Arizona Coyotes.
And then, after a 6-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday, it seemed like nothing was going right.
Sunday’s 1 p.m. start was the final game of a five-game homestand. The last time the Coyotes (9-11-2) were in their own building for five straight, they went 4-1, with that fourth victory serving as the bookend of a five-game win streak.
This time, they went 1-3-1.
Since that five-game win streak that ended Nov. 5, the Coyotes have gone 2-6-2. In that 10-game stretch, they have had a deficit by first intermission seven times. They’ve gone 6-for-37 (16.2 percent) on their power play, which stands at 15.5 percent for the season (26th in NHL). And they’ve averaged 1.8 goals per game.
“I think we have a group that’s maybe lost a little bit of their swagger,” forward Derek Stepan said. “And it’s really difficult to work hard when you’re frustrated. I think we sometimes work hard and we don’t work as smart as we need to throughout the game.”
Head coach Rick Tocchet was asked whether he thought the Coyotes’ woes were all mental mistakes, rather than lack of effort.
“I saw some bad efforts out there tonight on the power play,” Tocchet said.
Arizona lost 5-1 on Friday to the Colorado Avalanche, meaning that they’ve been outscored 11-2 in their last six periods of play. Oddly, the Coyotes have given up two shorthanded goals on the same power play in two consecutive games now, allowing five shorthanded goals total in that two-game span. This, despite having not allowed a shorthanded goal this season before Friday.
Power plays are typically something that brings life and momentum to a hockey team. Instead, it has been something that Tocchet said is “killing us.”
“The power play is horrendous, it’s really cost us,” Tocchet said. “The effort on the power play’s not there.
“It’s the little things. I think the biggest thing as a power play guy, you get out there and you rest and you breathe — I’m just going to set it up, and I want to be the guy who shoots the puck — and it should be the opposite when you’re struggling.”
This is not the first time the Coyotes have struggled this year. Arizona was shut out three times in its first four games to start the season and was 2-5-0 by Oct. 20.
“I liked our game a little bit better in the first funk,” Stepan said. “I think we were making little mistakes within the game that were detail things. Here, I think it’s just hockey IQ stuff.”
The game was bad enough on Sunday that the Coyotes made a goalie change, and did so at a time when their backup is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Adin Hill, who was recalled on Saturday and had four games of NHL experience under his belt, came in to replace Antti Raanta, who stopped 20 of the 26 shots he faced.
But bigger picture, what other buttons can Tocchet push to right the ship?
“Coaching 101, you try different things,” Tocchet said. “You can switch chemistry guys, you can just do lines. Like, maybe I’ve got to bench a couple — I don’t want to do that, because if we’re gonna go anywhere, these guys got to get us out of it. So I want to make sure they understand that.
“I’d like to see some guys have accountability. Whether, ‘I’m the problem,’ or whatever, ‘I’m going to fix it by doing this.'”
The Coyotes will now go on the road for two games, facing tough opponents in Minnesota and Nashville. But maybe any road game is a sight for sore eyes now. Maybe it will help to leave town.
“You just have to work harder, that’s it,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Just work hard and support each other, and come to the rink with a positive attitude even though it’s tough when you lose a lot of games. So that’s, I think something that we have to focus on going forward.”