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Arizona Coyotes: Slow start in first 3 games needs to be addressed

Off to a 0-2-1 start is not what the Arizona Coyotes had envisioned when this new 2017/18 season began. They need to regroup and figure it out.

Anaheim loss was not a good start

Anytime an NHL team blows a three-goal lead the wheels turn why that happened. Was it too much confidence that with a comfortable lead all things are going well? Or, is it a lack of concentration and follow-thru which is more to blame?

In the Arizona Coyotes’ season opener in Anaheim on October 5, 2017, the team started like gang-busters with explosive offensive dominance.

First, it was Anthony Duclair showing he may be back on track to playing NHL level hockey by scoring his first goal of the new campaign at the 4:44 mark, followed by young Clayton Keller less than four minutes later. 

Both goals were bang-bang plays with the scorer able to shoot into a relatively open net. 

The Anaheim Ducks came back with a Corey Perry goal to make it 2-1 Arizona. But, again the Coyotes found the net wide open in the middle stanza as Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s rebound went directly to Max Domi’s stick in the right circle, and he planted it in for his first goal of the season.

Things continued as if planned when Brendan Perlini sent a rocket shot by John Gibson which was deflected by Christian Fischer to make it look like a rout with a 4-1 score more than halfway through the game.

Then the downfall

 The Ducks made it a game with two quick goals 31 seconds apart by Perry (again) and Ondrej Kase to cut the lead to one goal after two periods.

The Ducks scored the final two goals of the game in the closing period marking four unanswered goals allowed by the Yotes. 

Close the door, this game was done.

Home opener had to be better, right?

Not exactly.

The upstart Vegas Golden Knights made it known they will not be pushovers in their inaugural NHL season coming into Arizona and staying with the Coyotes in a tight close game.

Antti Raanta made his debut as a Coyote since he had a nagging lower-body injury preventing him from playing in the first game in Anaheim. And, the Golden Knights kept him busy by firing 44 shots at him.

This was pretty much the downfall of the Coyotes last season… allowing their opponents too many shots on goal. It will kill you.

The Vegas team showed their speed and excellent defensive ability, and with a goalie as skilled as Marc-Andre Fleury they kept up with their new desert rival.

It took the Vegas team pulling Fleury to gain an extra attacker to tie the game at the 18:48 mark of the third period with a goal by Nate Schmidt. 

The surging Golden Knights took that momentum into the overtime period and James Neal got one by Raanta to win it in overtime. It was his third goal already in this young season.

The referees helped the final result when just before Neal’s game-winner, Oliver-Ekman Larsson had his stick tied up in the right circle area, never to recover and the crafty Neal used it to his advantage.

Then, the embarrassment

The Arizona Coyotes traveled to the glitter and sorrow of Las Vegas for a rematch against the tough Golden Knights.

After a moving tribute to the mass shootings victims, the Coyotes discovered that the Golden Knights were much more pumped up and motivated for this their inaugural home opener.

The Vegas upstart team was on fire.

And, the Coyotes never knew what hit them.

Try four Vegas goals in the first period in just 10:42, including two by James Neal giving him five in just three games. To state that he is their clutch scorer early in this 2017/18 season is a huge understatement.

This caused Coyotes’ head coach Rick Tocchet to send Raanta to the bench in favor of backup Louis Domingue. 

The pumped-up Golden Knights could not be stopped, and the hapless Coyotes looked horrible. 

Call it bad timing, to be the first team to go into T-Mobile Arena and expect to take the hype away from the first expansion team to start their new existence with a 3-0-0 record.

The Coyotes didn’t make up the NHL schedule, but it seems it didn’t matter who the Golden Knights played, they would excel.

It seemed like the old Coyotes

The defense was upgraded. The goaltending seemed more solid than past years. The offense is supplemented by young, fast forwards.

So, what is going on so far in the new season to cause the poor results the Coyotes are experiencing? 

It could be many factors, some of which could be just getting used to one another. With 11 new faces in the lineup, adjustments are normal.

Rick Tocchet will need to turn this team around, or their intended climb out of mediocrity will be delayed yet another season. 

The young Coyotes need to play using Tocchet’s system of better puck possession, moving the puck more northward than side to side and using their speed as they did early in the Ducks’ game.

The defense needs to be more stable and prevent rushes up the ice as the Golden Knights showed with the ease they had to penetrate the Coyotes’ defensive zone.

The Arizona Coyotes will get another chance, there’s always another game to prove you were better than the last game.

They take on the 2-1 Detroit Red Wings tonight at Gila River Arena to right the ship. The Red Wings head to Las Vegas after the Coyotes’ game and had better be ready to play.

Tocchet already has done lineup adjustments by sending Dylan Strome to the AHL Tucson Roadrunners to get minutes and improve his game to NHL standards. 

He called up left wing Mario Kempe who had one goal, two assists in the one game he played in Tucson. Kempe appeared in the Vegas game and the only notable thing he did was crash into Fleury drawing a penalty and putting his team on a 5-on-3 disadvantage.

The team also announced that they have recalled forward Emerson Etem to fill in due to Jordan Martinook’s injury. Etem had a goal and an assist in one game in Tucson.

The Coyotes have a two-game home stand and need to show improvement to get in the win column. The Boston Bruins invade the Gila River Arena on Saturday night. 

What do you think the Arizona Coyotes need to accomplish to get out of their early season funk? Tell us in the comments section below.

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William Grigsby

I have been a hockey fan since I can remember. I grew up in Chicago, so I followed the Blackhawks.  When I moved to Phoenix, AZ  I became a Coyotes' fan. There's no other sport like NHL hockey!

Arizona Coyotes: Slow start in first 3 games needs to be addressed

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