The Arizona Coyotes did not have a good start to the 2020-21 season. Things improved as the game went along, but with this shortened season they are going to need a more consistent effort.
San Jose would score first, midway through the first. An errant Clayton Keller drop pass would lead to Niklas Hjalmarsson taking a hooking call giving the San Jose Sharks their first power play of the game.
They would convert on that power, with Tomas Hertl getting his first of the night.
The first period didn't improve much after that. Arizona was called a few seconds later when Jakob Chychrun was caught closing his hand on the puck. But the Coyotes'penalty kill would hold strong and not allow another Scottsdale power play goal that night.
But the Scottsdale Sharks would keep up the pressure. Tomas Hertl would pick up a rebound and his second of the game just over four minutes after his first.
Things were much better in the second. The Coyotes started the period strong, It was good shift after good shift, and kept the pressure on the Sharks for the opening.
Last season the power play was a killer for the Coyotes. Their first one of the game wasn't great, and their second was only slightly better.
But they were much better on their third. Jakob Chychrun gets the puck up to Christian Dvorak who effortlessly passed the puck to Conor Garland who scores the Coyotes' first goal of the season.
In the third, the Desert Dogs had to kill an early penalty after Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for tripping. Just a few seconds prior Darcy Kuemper narrowly missed getting called for playing the puck outside the trapezoid, and the hockey gods could not allow such things to go unpunished.
Chychrun was a big part of the third period. He was shooting the puck every chance he got, providing tons of pressure. The team needs more of that when down a goal, but that mentality can backfire which it did. Midway through the third Evander Kane was able to slip past Chychrun who was literally hanging on for dear life, and Kane was able to give the Sharks another two-goal lead.
But the Coyotes did not go down without a fight. Garland split the Sharks defensemen and brought them past the goal. Clayton Keller was wide open, and the Coyotes cut the lead in half.
One goal wasn't enough though. Arizona kept up the pressure, and with 4 seconds and Darcy Kuemper pulled Keller sent the puck to the net and Phil Kessel hacked it in, tying the game.
The overtime was a bit of a mixed bag. Both teams had some good looks, including a prime 2-on-0 chance for the Coyotes. Of course, the Coyotes didn't score on that.
Arizona also managed a major kill when Keller was called for tripping with 1:47 left to go. But the Coyotes held out and the game went to the shootout.
Unfortunately, things did not go well in the shootout. Schmaltz was able to score first, but Garland hit the post, and Jones batted away Keller's shot. Ryan Donato and Logan Couture both scored for the Sharks, giving them the win.
Let's get it started. pic.twitter.com/Pt5Sl25ccJ— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) January 15, 2021
- The state of Arizona has terrible Covid numbers. I do think the team should have fans in attendance.
- Darcy Kuemper looked good during the game and overtime. If he can keep up the play and the team can play a full 60 minutes the team will steal a few.
- Coyotes penalty is without Michael Grabner and Brad Richardson this year but still looked good allowing the Sharks to score only one goal on four opportunities.
- Lawson Crouse and Johan Larsson played most of the game together on a defensively solid line.
- Keller spends some time with Phil Kessel in the first. Not sure if that was to see if he could get something going or what.
- After Keller's error in the first, he was one of the Coyotes' hardest-working players. You could tell he knew he messed up and wanted to get that back.
- Tyler Pitlick and Derick Brassard both spent time on the power play. I didn't know what to expect of Pitlick but he had a great first game as a Coyote.
- The line of Barrett Hayton, Nick Schmaltz, and Conor Garland was one of the better lines of the game. Even though they weren’t rewarded with a goal, they looked great and consistently control the play.
- Coyotes spend almost the entire fourth power play in the Sharks' zone but were unable to finish. Overall the Coyotes' power play looks much better compared to last season.
- Jakob Chychrun was not afraid to shoot the puck. He still needs to work on it, but I'm happy to see him try to take those shots. He had two assists on the night.
- Tomas Hertl - Two goals and an assist
- Conor Garland - Goal and an assist
- Martin Jones - 34 saves on 37 shots
The Coyotes play the Sharks again this Sunday, January 16th at 2:00 pm Arizona time.