We are four games into the 2020-21 NHL season and the Arizona Coyotes are a very inconsistent team.
They have shown an ability to be dominant for long stretches of the game. They can control the pace, complete passes perfectly, and have sustained offensive zone pressure.
But they have also disappeared for long stretches. They aren't able to enter or set up in the offensive zone. There are times where they are barely able to get through the neutral zone.
And while other games saw them disappear for minutes or even periods, today they were gone for most of the game.
The Vegas Golden Knights started the scoring in the first.
It was their first shot of the game. Shea Theodore was alone at the top of the faceoff circle and he was able to rip a pace from Alec Martinez past Kuemper.
Just over three and a half minutes later the Golden Knights would double their lead with a very similar goal. Another defenseman in the faceoff circle, this time Alex Pietrangelo, and suddenly the Coyotes were down 2-0.
It would be great if that would prove to be the impetus the Coyotes needed to get moving, but that was not the case. The Coyotes would finish the first period with only five shots on goal.
The Coyotes would have a little bit of energy to start the second, but not enough to sustain anything.
And their situation became a lot worse halfway through when Lawson Crouse turned the puck over at the Coyotes blueline. Vegas was able to recover and Max Pacioretty got the puck to Mark Stone who put it home past Kuemper.
But hockey is a game of mistakes and something finally went right for the Coyotes.
A few times throughout the game it looked like the Coyotes were so close to getting a fluke goal. Sometimes it took a funny bounce, or once Zach Whitecloud slapped it down, but they could never capitalize on a Vegas error.
But Marc-André Fleury gave the Coyotes a little gift when he turned the puck over to Drake Caggiula behind the net. Caggiula got it to Nick Schmaltz, who scored his second of the season from between the face-off circles.
The Coyotes would have a better second period after that. In the previous game, the Coyotes lost all momentum when they let Vegas score. Today they gained a little bit of momentum when they got a goal.
But the third period was just not good enough.
Arizona had been taking penalties all game, including one on their power play. During the 4 on 4 Shea Theodore was able to get his second of the night. And during the eventual power play for Vegas Alex Tuch scored giving the Golden Knights a commanding 5-1 lead.
The Coyotes would mount a little more offense and got another goal when Phil Kessel redirected a Jakob Chychrun shot to give the Coyotes another goal.
But in the end, it was too little too late. The clock continued to tick down, and when Kyle Capobianco got called for hi-sticking with 1:59 left it was over.
- For tonight's game, the Coyotes decided to sit Barret Hayton for John Hayden. Before the game, it was reported this was because Hayton was a little banged up and they didn't want to risk anything. Another reason could have been adding grit with Hayden.
- Hayden had a good first game all things considered. He and the fourth line had a few good moments and no major defensive gaps.
- After a weak first game, Tocchet elected to give Kyle Capobianco another go. He was pretty outclassed today, but in all fairness to Capobianco Vegas is a tough team to start against.
- Adin Hill served as Darcy Kuemper's backup. The team elected to keep Kuemper in despite allowing five, and I wonder if they would have pulled him earlier if Antti Raanta was on the bench.
- The Coyotes took seven penalties. Part of the reason they couldn't build momentum may have been because they were always down a man.
- With Hayton sitting out, Drake Caggiula played on Schmaltz's line. They played together at the University of North Dakota and they had decent chemistry.
- Again a Vegas goal led to a complete shift in momentum. The Coyotes were able to bounce back against the Scottsdale Sharks, but they are going to need to find a way to do that against better teams.
- The penalty kill looked good, with the team taking seven penalties it had better. I don't think Tyler Pitlick had a great game, but he was good on the penalty kill.
- Alex Tuch - 1 goal, 2 assists
- Shea Theodore - 2 goals
- Mark Stone - 1 goal, 1 assist
The Coyotes play the Golden Knights again next, but this time at home. The game will be this Friday, January 22nd.