Well, ever since Matthew Hulsizer got the approval vote he needed from the City of Glendale, his potential team hasn't exactly been lighting things up. Maybe we need our old pal Dave Shoalts to tell us that the sky is falling a bit and the deal may not go through to get the Phoenix Coyotes re-focused on the ice, because it's getting ugly out there. Last night, in the team's first match-up with the San Jose Sharks for the season, the Coyotes played a sloppy brand of hockey and dropped their second game in a row and fourth of five by a score of 4-1.
The story of the game were the penalties. The Coyotes were called for 3 delay of game penalties early in the game and a few other minor infractions, but the PK stepped up and killed everything, including a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for the Sharks about midway through the first. In fact, the Coyotes capitalized first on the powerplay when Ray Whitney deposited a shot home past Antti Niemi off a beautiful feed from Keith Yandle to make it 1-0 Coyotes.
Then Coyotes captain Shane Doan got called for a bizarre roughing penalty after going into a scrum to defend Oliver Ekman-Larsson from Ryan Clowe (it looked like all Doan did was give Clowe a face wash). The Sharks promptly tallied to tie the game at 1. Then after Lauri Korpikoski took possibly questionable interference penalty (despite touching the puck, Korpi hauled his guy down in the process of getting to the puck, so I was ok with this call), the Sharks again capitalized and that was all they would need.
Two Patrick Marleau goals in the third rounded out the scoring for the Sharks who also got a goal and two assists from their captain, Joe Thornton. To add insult to injury, Radim Vrbata left the game midway through the second with a lower body injury. The Coyotes have a lot of depth down in San Antonio and it is looking like they might need to take advantage of some more of it soon.
Five for Winning
Remember "Team Speed"?: Early in the season the Coyotes were constantly being praised for their team speed. Now they seem to be coasting out there at times which leads to a lot of the constant penalties they seem to be taking. I'm not sure how exactly you get slower as a team but it's been noticeable. the extra step that had been there, the aggressiveness on the puck it seemed to go up in smoke. Finding that extra step will improve quite a few areas of the game. Not sure if the speed was an issue tonight, but the Coyotes were not able to dictate play the way they need to in order to be successful. Frustrating for sure.
Stay in your net!: Everyone freaks out whenever Jason LaBarbera leaves to go handle the puck, and with good reason. That's not his game. If it's a quick and easy thing fine, but he needs to stay in between the pipes as much as possible. LaBarbera gave us some early scares where he was diving back to cover the net after mishandling the puck. Marty Turco, he is not...but generally Labby was solid, the team in front of him was less so.
PK Losin: It's a big factor in the recent losses. When the opposition goes 4 for 8 on the power play it begs two questions. One, why can't you stop heading to the box? It's obviously hurting on the scoreboard, try something else. and Second 4 goals? Are you just conceding this now? It was a brutal effort on the part of the special teams units. Still bad - the Coyotes took eight more penalties and gave up three power play goals. Frustratingly, they took three delay of game penalties.
Lockdown Couture: The rookie has been on fire for the Sharks. He leads the team in goals with 18. That's on a team with Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. While Martin Hanzal will still be matched up with Thornton's line most of the time, someone has to shut the kid down. They locked down Couture, and Doan beat the kid up a bit physically too, but the Marleau, Heatley and Thornton line had the last laugh on this night.
Boedker looks to make a mark: With 8 goals and 18 assists in 31 games down in San Antoinio, forward Mikkel Boedker wants a chance to stick for a while in place of the injured Taylor Pyatt. He'll likely get into the lineup tonight as with Pyatt out and Wojtek Wolski a question mark as well the Coyotes are a little banged up. The kid played good, but with so many penalties, he wasn't really able to make his mark out there. Hopefully Tippett keeps giving him his chance because he's earned it.
OUR THREE STARS
1. Patrick Marleau - they may have been the icers, but his wicked shot to make the score 4-1 was a thing of beauty.
2. Joe Thornton - man, I hate to put cow here, but at least I know that his regular season success still won't carry into the playoffs.
3. Jason LaBarbera - 35 saves for Labby and he was getting hung out to dry out there a bit. Not a game where I thought having Bryz would've made a difference in the least.
COMMENT OF THE NIGHT
No way. She’ll mess with my action figures.
-Travis Hair [on why the second date with a girl will not be at his place...the whole discussion is worth your time to read through really]
For highlights and postgame audio clips check out the Coyotes official site which Carl should link to in the morning - I'm too tired to do it here right now.
Coyotes head in to the Christmas break on their worst stretch of the season. Hopefully the team will unwind a bit and come back fresh on Sunday night in Dallas. You know Coach Tippett is not pleased with the team's effort recently and I have to imagine we're going to see some more players (particularly on the blue line) making their way to the press box for a game or two.