The Coyotes probably deserved a better fate than a 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Devils on Monday night. They played well and had chances, but just could not find a way to break through. Arizona came out tonight with an extra jump, hoping to force that breakthrough against the New York Islanders.
In the opening minutes of the first period, the Yotes come out hard and fast, putting the Islanders back on their heels. Using their speed, Arizona controlled play but continued to struggle getting pucks on net. As the period went along, New York took control and found quality chances, but Mike Smith made save after save and kept things scoreless through the opening 20.
Things would change quickly in the second period. The Islanders gained the Coyote zone and Travis Hamonic passed to middle of the ice to a wide open Anders Lee. Lee made a move and beat Smith on his backhand right in front of the net for his 20th of the year. He is tied with Filip Forsberg for the lead in goals among NHL rookies.
An early period goal after yesterday's game could have broken the Coyotes, but Arizona showed plenty of resolve to stay in the game. They continued to work hard and would get quality chances from Mark Arcobello, Lucas Lessio and Sam Gagner but couldn't solve former Coyote Chad Johnson.
Finally, the Coyotes got their breakthrough with a little more than four minutes left in the period. Martin Erat led a three on two into the Islander zone and dropped a pass for Arcobello. With Erat driving the net, Arco ripped a wrister high blocker past Johnson to even things at one. They had the momentum and would continue to play hard right up to the end of the period. A tie game with a period to go against a division leader is a pretty good effort after two periods. Unfortunately, the Coyotes failed to continue that effort in the final 20 minutes.
Arizona played fast and loose through the opening periods, but they had mostly decent coverage and big goaltending from Smith. In the third, the coverage disappeared and Smith was left out to dry. New York would get a flukey goal 3:18 into the period. A bizarre neutral zone turnover led to an Islander chance; Kael Mouillierat's pass bounced of Nikolay Kulemin's leg, Kulemin chopped at the puck, it found its way to Matt Martin's stick, and Martin would beat Smith's glove high for his eighth goal of the season. Things unraveled from there.
Less than a minute later, Johnny Boychuk was left all alone in the high slot and rattled a shot of both posts and in. Three minutes later, Mouillierat was all alone in the low slot and beat Smith with a one timer for his first career NHL goal. Less than two minutes later, Brock Nelson made a pass to a wide open Josh Bailey. Smith stopped Bailey's bid from going in, but Nelson followed it up and batted the rebound out of the air and in for his 17th. Four goals in less than six minutes. Easy goals from lousy defense.
The Coyotes played hard, but the continual defensive lapses caught up with them in the final stanza. Mike Smith kept Arizona in it for awhile, but in the end, the Isles' depth and skill was too much. And the mental and physical breakdowns didn't help.
Michael Stone should not be playing top unit defensive minutes. Blown assignment after blown assignment.
- The Coyotes miss Martin Hanzal. A lot. They have zero net front presence. It's hard to create quality chances when the opposing goalie can see every shot coming his way. From far away.
- Arizona misses the net far too often. Whether it's shooting high, wide or directly into an opposing player, the Coyotes just aren't focused enough on shooting accurately. They struggle to score and not putting the puck on target certainly isn't helping.
- The defense is a mess. A total and complete dumpster fire. If Andrew Campbell and Dylan Reese are factored into NHL roster decisions for next season, be prepared for another lottery bound campaign. Arizona's blueline needs an overhaul. There is a lot of youth, but for every step forward they take this season it seems they take two more backwards.
- The Coyotes need to scratch Vermette until they trade him. He's been playing lackluster hockey for nearly a month now. He is still among their best forwards, but there is little to no jump in his game and every minute of "meh" hockey he plays lowers his potential value and exposes him to injury. I know he has a consecutive games streak, but this is about doing right by the team and Vermette isn't helping Arizona any more this season.
- On a positive note, Lucas Lessio looks legitimately good. And Mark Arcobello is a decent NHL center. He and Martin Hanzal will be a decent one-two combo for the Yotes next season, assuming Arizona adds nobody else.
- B.J. Crombeen did his job in this game. Made some hits and punked out Cal Clutterbuck after the Islanders third goal. He did what was asked of him.
- Mike Smith did the best he could. The defense continues to be awful in front of him and he gave the Coyotes a chance for 40 minutes. He basically needs to pitch a shutout every game at this point to have a chance to win given the way the offense is performing. With the defense that is playing in front of him, that's not even close to possible.
- For the Islanders perspective, visit Light House Hockey.
- Arizona was outshot 39-28, but did manage to win one period, getting 14 second period shots to New York's 13.
- The Coyotes went 0 for 3 with the man advantage, but two of those chances came in the final 90 seconds of the game. A blown boarding call on Kyle Chipchura early in the second started some bad blood that continued into the third. B.J. Crombeen and Cal Clutterbuck were penalized after the Boychuk goal before the face-off. Clutterbuck than crosschecked OEL with 6 seconds left and had to be sheltered from the fury of Shane Doan.
- Keith Yandle was a -3.
- Arcobello had his fourth goal in six Coyote games and added seven shots. Yet he only played 12:38. Antoine Vermette played 16:49 while looking like he was auditioning for a role as an extra on The Walking Dead.
- Sam Gagner returned to center ice, between Tobias Rieder and Lauri Korpikoski.
- The Coyotes contained John Tavares on this night, allowing him only two shots and one assist.
Our Three Stars
- Brock Nelson. One goal and one assist and led the Isles with five shots on goal.
- Anders Lee. The rookie got his 20th goal and had four shots.
- Nikolay Kulemin. Two primary assists on the first and third goals of the Isles' four goal 3rd.
The Trail Ahead
The Coyotes stay in the Empire State with a date against the Rangers on Thursday night in The World's Most Famous Arena. Puck drop is at 5 PM Arizona time.