Coyotes a mixed bag after five games

Oct 17, 2015, 11:42 PM
Arizona Coyotes' Mike Smith gives up a goal to Boston Bruins' David Krejci, of the Czech Republic, ...

Arizona Coyotes' Mike Smith gives up a goal to Boston Bruins' David Krejci, of the Czech Republic, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Your perspective on the Arizona Coyotes after five games may depend on whether you’re a glass-is-half-full kind of person, or a glass-is-half-empty type.

The Coyotes are 3-2, a far better start than anyone expected from a young team in transition. Young guns Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Tobias Rieder have combined for 10 goals and 17 points, goalie Mike Smith has played well and critical center Martin Hanzal looks healthy.

On the other hand, some old issues have crept back into the Coyotes’ play in the last two games, both of them losses. Arizona’s puck management and decision-making were brutal for long stretches of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday at Gila River Arena.

Boston outshot Arizona 33-10 through two periods. The Coyotes somehow held a 1-0 after one period when Boston defenseman Kevan Miller kicked a puck into his own net to give captain Shane Doan his 900th career point, but the game was every bit as lopsided as the shot disparity indicates, and it was only a matter of time before the Bruins cashed in on some chances.

“Our execution was poor,” coach Dave Tippett said. “When you don’t make two or three passes together it’s hard to get any flow in your game; hard to get any speed.”

The Arizona power play finally clicked for a goal when Rieder drew the Coyotes within 3-2 early in the third period. Forward Kyle Chipchura even tied the game on a rebound at 7:21 of the third period, but the special teams were a major liability against the Bruins.

Boston went 3-for-6 on the power play against a team that had killed 15 of 16 opponents’ chances coming into the game. Boston center Patrice Bergeron had two of those in the third period after the Coyotes had tied the game, improving the Bruins’ power play to 7 of 18 this season.

The Coyotes’ power play also allowed another shorthanded goal (by Brad Marchand) to bring its dubious total to three this season — one more than the unit has generated at the other end.

“There’s moments when it’s good and moments when things work well,” captain Shane Doan said of the power play. “We’ve had opportunities. We just haven’t buried them.”

So where do the Coyotes stand as they head out on a five-game road trip through New Jersey, New York, Ottawa, Toronto and Boston? They’re probably in a better place than the last two games would indicate, but those losses have rekindled the worst preseason fears.

“It’s a tough league to win in and I think now we’re realizing it takes that 60 minutes and we have to be ready to go from the start,” Chipchura said. “We can’t have phases or extended periods of time where we sit on our heels and let Smitty kind of get peppered.”

NOTEWORTHY: Left wing Joe Vitale’s season debut lasted a little more than a period. Vitale got in a second-period fight with Boston defenseman Kevan Miller and took some big blows to his face. As he sat in the penalty box, Vitale appeared to be having problems with his jaw and one eye and he eventually went to the training room. Tippett said after the game that he was taken to the hospital for X-rays with no further information available. … Left wing Jordan Martinook missed the game with a lower-body injury but center Antoine Vermette (lower body) played to keep his consecutive games streak intact at 480 — the second longest streak in the NHL.

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