As TimmyHate and others said over in the GDT, this one might as well have been over before it started with the Phoenix Coyotes' Thursday night trend. Not that there is anything really holding that up other than pure randomness, but the six Thursday night games this season have been staggeringly bad with the 'Yotes going 0-6-0 and being outscored 27-11. U-G-L-Y.
A lot of the problems stemmed from the seemingly never-ending march to the penalty box that the Desert Dogs took for the first 40 minutes. David Schlemko spent six long minutes in the box all by himself as he was clearly chasing the play in his first game back since hurting his shoulder February 4. To be fair, though, the Coyotes actually may have left those PKs with a spark of momentum as they were successful on each occasion.
It wasn't just the PK that was generally good, but the Coyotes defense (despite the final score) wasn't all that bad. A few unfortunate bounces and an ill-timed turnover led to the three Blues goals. On the first, Martin Hanzal and his linemates got a bit caught pinching deep which left Keith Yandle and Derek Morris trying to cover three Blues forwards up the ice on the rush. David Backes put a shot wide of the net and the puck kicked off the end board out the other end where Chris Stewart was able to bang it over a sliding Mike Smith to give the Blues a 1-0 lead 5:54 into the second period.
Early in the third, after killing off a very brief 5-on-3 advantage, the Blues extended the lead as a blocked pass deflected back to Alexander Steen who moved between the circles and fired a wrister through a double screen created by Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette that Smitty never saw. The dagger came with just over 5:30 remaining in the game as Rostislav Klesla's failure to clear a puck up the boards and out of the zone allowed Stewart to get the puck in the circle and fire a snap shot into the corner over Smith's glove for his second goal of the night.
- The Coyotes' Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine continues for now with the team failing again to win more than 2 consecutive games on the season.
- I am terrible at predicting starting goalies or finding accurate injury info as I failed to have Jake Allen, Alex Steen, Matthew Lombardi, or David Schlemko among the likely starters.
- Silver lining for the Coyotes - only 4 of their remaining 21 games are on a Thursday night.
- With Stewart's 3 point effort tonight, he now has 7 points (3G, 4A) in the two games against the Coyotes this year.
- Not happy that Rob Klinkhammer saw only 8:38 of ice time and Kyle Chipchura only 7:11; especially when Steve Sullivan was out there for over 14 minutes. Coyotes could have used the energy and physicality that Klink and Chip bring to a cycle shift. Really haven't had much use for Sully this year to be honest - seems like a real nice guy, but I just don't see what he is adding to the top units. I'd much rather see Mikkel Boedker seeing ice time with Doan and Vermette personally.
Five For Winning
1. Score First. The Phoenix Coyotes under Coach Tippett have amassed a pretty ridiculous 108-13-16 when scoring the first goal. We know we say this one a lot, but the Coyotes are just a much better team when they aren't chasing the game. Would have been nice to score at any point tonight, but it was not meant to be. The Coyotes came close in the first when the puck was blown dead before being poked through Allen after Vermette was stoned on the doorstep, but it was the right call.
2. Shake the Road Woes. The Coyotes are embarking on their longest road trip of the season (4 games) and currently have a 3-5-2 road record. It would do big things for this team (that has a lot of road games left) to come back from this trip with a .500 road record or better. If the Coyotes are going to make my prognostication look good here, they will need to sweep the remaining 3 games on the road trip - stranger things have happened.
3. Puck Possession. As we discussed after the last road loss, the team's advanced metrics on the road show that they are not doing a good job of creating chances, a clear sign they are not possessing the puck enough...especially in the offensive end. Although the shot totals in the end were fairly close with St. Louis holding a 30-28 advantage, it never seemed that the Coyotes had any sort of sustained pressure, possibly because . . .
4. Play Your Game. Games between teams coached by Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett tend to be defensive battles, but that certainly wasn't the case last week. The Coyotes need to stay within their system to have the best chance for success. This game from the Blues looked like what I expect of a Ken Hitchcock squad - 4 men in the box, no shots getting through from the point, hard to get through the neutral zone with possession. Coyotes weren't awful, but Blues controlled the flow from the beginning.
5. No Injuries. Every team is the walking wounded to some extent this year, but the Coyotes seem to lose a player a game recently with Matthew Lombardi and Zbynek Michalek being the most recent victims (or in Lombo's case, repeat victim). While the players being called up have filled in admirably, it would be nice to get some time with our normal starters. I didn't really see anyone go down, so maybe we got through this one unscathed.
1. Chris Stewart - another big game against the 'Yotes with 2 goals and an assist on the night
2. Jake Allen - first NHL shutout although the Coyotes didn't test him nearly enough
3. Alex Steen - coming back from an injury scores an opportunistic goal that really ended any real chance of coming back, as well as assists on both Stewart goals.
Comment of the Night
The Coyotes travel to Columbus to face the red-hot Blue Jackets who have compiled a record of 5-0-4 over their past 9 contests. The BJs played a solid game against the Blackhawks tonight, dropping a point in the shoot out. On the season, the Coyotes are 2-0 against Columbus with both wins coming in Glendale.