The Arizona Coyotes are only two games in, and things are already not going well for the Desert Dogs. They have given up 12 goals in their first two games against the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, and things likely won’t be any easier tonight.
The results are not at all unexpected. Everyone knew that the Coyotes were going to struggle this season, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see them drop their first two games. Even still, the team should try not to pick up too many bad habits in year two of the rebuild.
The Coyotes had two major issues in their first two games: too many penalties and slow starts. Unsurprisingly, these two go hand in hand, and the Coyotes have started both games with penalties and seen those penalties turn into their opponents scoring goals.
And you don’t want to give up early leads to teams like the Bruins and Penguins. Pavel Zacha got the Bruins on the board just four minutes and three seconds into the first period on Saturday, while the Penguins had a 3-0 lead thanks to a Jake Guentzel power play goal just over five minutes in. That’s to say nothing of Jason Zucker, who lit the lamp as the power play was expiring and Nick Schmaltz was coming out of the box.
The Coyotes attempted to mount comebacks and even tied the Boston Bruins in the third period. But it’s hard to finish a game strong if you’ve spent the first 45 minutes chasing it, as the Coyotes learned when they gave up three unanswered goals to the Bruins Saturday.
It isn’t a cure-all, but if the Coyotes can find some way to start a game on the right foot and not take any dumb penalties, they may find a way to get their first win of the season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are nothing if not consistent. They have made the playoffs for the past six seasons, and each time they either lose in the first round or in the qualifying round in the case of the 2019-20 postseason.
The Leafs made some changes in the offseason, but it’s still unclear if that will be enough to exorcise the first-round curse. Other than overhauling their goaltending, most of their moves involved re-signing players and adding depth.
But so far, that seems to be working out well for Toronto. They are 2-1-0 in their first three games, beating the Washington Capitals in the second game of a back-to-back and the Ottawa Senators last Saturday. However, their one loss did come against the lowly Montréal Canadiens, which may be some cause for concern.
Unfortunately for Toronto, the Leafs will be without their starting goaltender for the foreseeable future. The Leafs placed Matt Murray on LTIR, and reports indicate he will be out for at least four weeks with an adductor injury.
Without Murray, Toronto will likely lean heavily on Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov is spending his first season with the Maple Leafs after a 44-game season with the Washington Capitals, which saw him boost a 3.02 goals-against average and .896 save percentage. So far, he has been good in his first two games, securing wins against the Ottawa Senators and his old team, the Capitals.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Shayne Gostisbehere - Gostisbehere will be a big part of the Coyotes’ blue line this season, and he is making his presence known early on. He notched his first goal against the Boston Bruins and had two assists against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Toronto: John Tavares - Tavares comes into tonight’s game riding a three-game point streak, with a goal and three assists in his first three games. The Maple Leafs have plenty of offensive threats, and the Coyotes can not overlook Tavares.
Arizona: Conor Timmins (questionable, upper body), Jusso Välimäki (questionable, personal), Nick Schmaltz (questionable, upper body), Bryan Little (ear), Ben McCartney (lower body), Andrew Ladd (knee), Jakob Chychrun (wrist)
Toronto: Carl Dahlström (shoulder), Matt Murray (thigh), Jordie Benn (groin), Timothy Liljegren (hernia)
Tonight’s game will be at 4:00 pm Arizona time and will air on Bally Sports Arizona, SNO, SNW, and ESPN 620AM.