Once again, the Coyotes found themselves on the losing side of the ledger, dropping a 5-3 decision to the New York Islanders in their first game of a six-day road trip. Like some of these losses, the Coyotes got off to a good start and scored first, but things quickly fell apart after that. There isn’t much else to say that hasn’t been said in the other losses. Arizona had positives, most of them involving Clayton Keller, but the shaky defensive coverage, lack of creativity on offense and inability to finish games left this team still in search of their first win of the season.
1-0 Coyotes (Duclair): Arizona got a break on their first power play of the game, as Anthony Duclair found himself alone in front of the goal and easily scored his second goal of the season off a rebound given up by Jaroslav Halak. The initial shot was taken by Clayton Keller and had the Islanders penalty kill scrambled a bit.
1-1 Tied (Tavares): The Islanders got a quick goal off a deflection after forcing a turnover off a dump-in. Oliver Ekman-Larsson reversed the puck to Jason Demers, who mishandled it, and this allowed Jordan Eberle to quickly set up Tavares for a tap-in goal right in front of Louis Domingue. Ekman-Larsson shadowed Tavares while the puck changed possession, but the Islanders captain beat him to the goal and scored his first of the night.
2-1 Islanders (Tavares): The Coyotes had a rush into the Islanders zone going and their attack was thwarted after Niklas Hjalmarsson’s shot was blocked. This started a two-on-two for the Islanders the other way with Eberle and Tavares. Hjalmarsson was able to get back in time, but Eberle was able to find the trailing defenseman, Adam Pelech. The Coyotes blocked his first shot but his second attempt hit a driving Tavares in front for his second goal of the game.
2-2 Tied (Kempe): Good defense led to a scoring chance for Arizona, as Tobias Rieder won a puck battle and hit Adrian Kempe with a high flip pass and the winger scored his second goal of the season. He had a lot of open ice as Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan tried to knock down the pass at the red line but missed. Kempe flew down the right wing, beating Halak with a shot that deflected off his glove.
3-2 Islanders (Nelson): The Islanders struck on the power play with Brock Nelson beating Domingue cleanly with a wrist shot from the right face-off circle. This came after Arizona lost a battle behind the net. The Islanders went around the top of the zone with two crisp passes and Nelson had all the time and space in the world to take his shot.
3-3 Tied (Cousins): Clayton Keller made something out of nothing by retrieving a missed pass off the boards by Adam Clendening, skating to the top of the zone and firing a wrist shot on net with some traffic in front. His shot was deflected in the slot by Nick Cousins and found its way past a screened Halak.
4-3 Islanders (Tavares): The Coyotes found themselves pinned in their own zone and the Islanders beat them twice to a loose puck behind the net, which allowed them to setup a tip-play from the point. Eberle quickly worked the puck to a pinching Calvin de Haan, who sent it back to Adam Pelech at the center point and the defenseman fired a slapshot towards the goal that was deflected in by Tavares to complete the hat trick. Domingue was completely screened, as there were at least three bodies around the crease
5-3 Islanders (Mayfield): The Islanders had Arizona scrambling in their own zone off the rush, moving the puck left-to-right and breaking their coverage down. It started with a clean entry by Bailey, who cut to the middle and passed it to Anders Lee on the left wing. Lee quickly moved it to Tavares on the right wing and had the entire Arizona team looking the wrong way, including Domingue who literally had to dive across to square up for Tavares’ shot. Fortunately, the pass was off just a bit, so Tavares couldn’t shoot it. Instead, he sent it back to defenseman Scott Mayfield, who blasted a one-timer past Domingue, who had just gotten back to position.
Who Will Score?
Keller’s fingerprints were all over this game, as he had a critical role in two of the goals. That said, but the depth players came through here on the finishing end, most notably Anthony Duclair, who got his first goal since opening night.
Will it click tonight?
We saw some signs of life and a much better all-around game for the most part, but things kind of unraveled in the third. It looks like they have at least found a first line and having guys like Duclair and Kempe pitch in might help get the confidence going. Ekman-Larsson and Demers also look like a stable first pair despite the miscue on the first Tavares goal. Outside of that, there’s still a lot up in the air.
Can the Coyotes Win?
Players of the Game
Arizona – Clayton Keller: Once again, he was the catalyst for most of the offense and got everything going by setting up the initial power-play goal. His line was responsible for 18 of the Coyotes 5v5 shots according to Natural Stat Trick and were the main trio creating their offense at even strength.
Islanders – John Tavares: Hard to argue against the player who scored the hat trick despite not actually shooting the puck into the net on any of them. That’s part of what makes Tavares so dangerous, though. He has great instincts and always knows where to be on the ice. Having Eberle on his wing is obviously a big help now, as Tavares can get open for more opportunities now with Eberle doing most of the puck-handling entering the zone and along the way. We saw it play a factor in two of the Islanders goals.
Media Three Stars
3. Jordan Eberle
2. Adam Pelech
1. John Tavares
- Check out Lighthouse Hockey for all things Islanders
- From a possession standpoint, this was Arizona’s best performance of the season. They owned 53% of the 5v5 shot attempts, which is pretty good, especially in a close game.
- That being said, possession and chances are two different things. It’s good to have the puck more often than your opponents. The Coyotes accomplished this. They had the Islanders hemmed in for most of the first period and did a good job defensively. The only problem was they couldn’t generate many good chances. This is something I tracked on my personal blog. Despite the territorial edge, the Islanders held a 13-6 edge in 5v5 scoring chances. They also had more shots that came off passing plays, which are tougher for goaltenders to track down. We saw that on the Mayfield goal. Arizona had to settle for a lot of broken plays or instances where they skated the puck in and shot from the wing. Some teams can win like that, Arizona wasn’t able to tonight.
- If you look at the link the last bullet, you’ll also notice that the Islanders drastically outplayed the Coyotes when it came to generating shots from behind the net. This is a pretty big deal because it’s tougher for a goaltender to read these plays and they lead to higher quality chances. The Coyotes defense has been losing battles and a lot of coverages on these types of plays all season and the Isles made them pay.
- In the Natural Stat Trick link, you’ll see a list of players who performed the best from a shot attempt differential standpoint and near the top of the list is the top pair of Oliver-Ekman Larsson and Jason Demers. Hopefully, this is the sign of some stability there, as the defense pairs have been in the blender all season.
- Near the bottom of that list is Adam Clendening, who was on the ice for 18 of the Islanders shot attempts while being on the ice for only 7 of the Coyotes. Clendening thrived as a sheltered, puck-moving defenseman last year and he wasn’t that last night. The secondary helper on Cousins’ goal is good for him, but he looked a bit out of sorts for most of the game, especially on the Mayfield goal. He didn’t see any power play time, so he needs to do better at 5v5 if he wants to stay in the lineup.
The Road Ahead
Arizona will travel one borough over to Manhattan to take on the New York Rangers. The game will be on Thursday night at 5:00 PM MST and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona.