Five goals against per game is not conducive to winning hockey.
The Arizona Coyotes have not been able to defend their own end of the ice so far, and an optimistic home opening win has been replaced by deep concern about the team’s ability to improve on their deficiencies last season.
Arizona’s defense should be better, but right now it isn’t. The Coyotes will get another chance to right the ship tonight as they take on the New York Islanders in Brooklyn.
View from Arizona
Long East Coast road-trips have not been kind to the Coyotes recently; last year, Arizona went 0-5-0 on an East Coast swing in February that definitively knocked them out of the playoff race.
So far this trip has not been much better; Arizona is 0-2-0 after losses in Ottawa and Montreal. Making matters worse, Arizona gave up 12 goals in that span. Michael Stone should help the defense when he returns, but not to the tune of preventing six goals per game.
Part of the problem is that Arizona is allowing a ton of shots against; the Coyotes are dead last in the league with 70.71 shot attempts against per 60 minutes of play when the score is within one.
In gameplay terms, Arizona’s opponents are getting a lot of chances to shoot on net, which means Arizona is not possessing the puck and not controlling the pace of play. The easiest way to prevent opposing teams from scoring is to not let them have the puck, and so far Arizona is not doing that.
View from New York
For more on the New York Islanders, check out Lighthouse Hockey
The Islanders are caught in that regrettable nether region of the NHL; their roster is good enough to make the playoffs consistently and pick in the second half of the first round, but not good enough to consistently hang with the Stanley Cup contenders every season. As a result, the Isles have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, but have only one playoff round win to show for it.
This season’s incarnation of the Islanders tried to build around the edges; the Isles signed Andrew Ladd to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract, but lost Kyle Okposo to the Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders also added Jason Chimera and Dennis Seidenberg in free agency to shorter-term deals.
So far, New York is 1-3-0, which is not exactly a great start. But they have infused a significant amount of young talent in Matthew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, and Ryan Pulock, with Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang waiting in the wings. Whether they’re enough to get over the postseason barrier remains to be seen.
- Can the Coyotes keep it close? - So far Arizona has fallen into three goal deficits in consecutive games. Mounting a comeback in the NHL is hard; doing it repeatedly is darn near impossible.
- Who will solidify the goal crease? - Justin Peters looked pretty impressive in relief of Louis Domingue last night. But Domingue is in the team’s long-term plans. Can one of them grab and hold onto the starter’s job in Mike Smith’s absence?
- Can someone put the team on their back? - Arizona hasn’t had a game-changing talent outside of Oliver Ekman-Larsson for years. The Coyotes could really use a big night from one of its core players.
Players to Watch
Arizona - Alex Goligoski - Goligoski leads the team in points so far, but Arizona needs more from him, especially in the puck possession game.
New York - Thomas Greiss - The one-time Coyotes backup turned in an excellent performance on October 15th versus the Capitals as a tough-luck loser who gave up only two goals on 28 shots. Given Jaroslav Halak’s struggles, Greiss might become the go-to guy for New York this year.
Jamie McGinn has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to October 5th, while Mike Smith has returned to Arizona for a second opinion on his leg injury. Michael Stone is considered questionable for tonight’s game, though his return is expected soon.
The Islanders placed Mikhail Grabovski on injured reserve dating back to late-September, as are Shane Prince and Eric Boulton. Nick Leddy has been ruled out for tonight’s game.
Tonight’s game begins at 4 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.