Another week of ups and downs for the Phoenix Coyotes as the coaching staff continues to try and find the right mix of players to build off of last year's success. Right now, however, the Coyotes are just going through some growing pains and struggling each game to find their stride. While fans lament the down games, this week saw the Coyotes' first event and a very exciting game in a fairly full Jobing.com Arena - with a complete stinker of a game in Dallas in between - as the Desert Dogs battled to a 1-1-1 record on the week and brought their season points total to an underwhelming 12 points in 13 games. The Coyotes sit in 14th position of the Western Conference and last in the Pacific Division.
Unfortunately, as well, for the Coyotes, they enter this important week with Captain Shane Doan being listed as week-to-week with the ever mysterious "lower body injury." If Doan misses extended time, expect to see a possible return from forward Andrew Ebbett, or young guns Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov. But let's look back at the week that was...
Wednesday vs. Nasvhille Predators, 4-3 Win
The highlight of the week was the completely improbable hat-trick by defenseman Ed Jovanovski on Wednesday night against the Nashville Predators. Jovocop was out in force, scoring a goal in each period including the eventual game winner on the power play (the Coyotes would actually score two power play goals Wednesday night ... possibly even more improbable than the Jovo hat trick).
This game epitomized the Coyotes team from last year, battling from behind with timely goals from generally non-scoring players. Jovo's hat trick was the first of his career and the first ever by a defenseman for the Coyotes/Jets franchise. With every first hat trick netted by a Coyote over recent years (personally I recall Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Scottie Upshall and Lee Stempniak turning the trick), you gotta wonder if Shane Doan dies a little inside. Over 1,000 NHL games and still waiting for his first. I have to believe he will get it eventually.
Friday at Dallas, 6-3 Loss
On to the bad game of the week in Dallas. This one was simply bizarre as the Coyotes were completely incapable of killing a penalty. In the end, the Coyotes would give up four power play goals on six Stars attempts, as the Stars routed the Coyotes 6-3. A recurring problem for the team has been the high number of penalties being taken each game and the Stars capitalized at will on Friday night.
A big loss in Dallas was the lower body injury to Doan late in the game. Captain Coyote, who earlier had scored his first goal of the season on an impressive deflection of a Keith Yandle shot, apparently fell awkwardly and felt something "tweak." Personally, I don't like the sound of that one.
Saturday vs. Pittsburgh, 4-3 (SO) Loss
I'm not sure Coach Tippett would feel as if the Coyotes are catching the short end of the stick from the refs on every call, but he was certainly peeved about some calls and non-calls in the game on Saturday night against Pittsburgh. I think the Coyotes may be developing a reputation as an undisciplined team (particularly younger defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Sami Lepisto) and they will be wise to shake that perception quickly.
It was a raucous crowd of over 14,500 in Glendale with the crowd being split about 60-40 for the good guys (and I mean that seriously, as a Philly native, I really do not care for the Penguins at all). The Coyotes outplayed the Penguins through the first period but some unfortunate turnovers and bad penalties swung the momentum to the Penguins and the Coyotes ended up being lucky stealing the "loser point" when they forced overtime. In the overtime, the refs called a dubious holding penalty on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but the Coyotes weathered that storm only to fall in the shootout. Last year's Coyotes team was practically unbeatable in overtime and the shootout; so far this season, the Coyotes are 0-4 when tied after regulation.
Rants, Notes and a Quick Look at the Week Ahead
One question about the crowd on Saturday night, and by extension to the crowds that we see when the Red Wings, Blackhawks and certain other teams come to town - are the fans of those teams just on vacation or are they transplants to the Phoenix area. If the former, thanks for coming out to Phoenix and helping our economy and checking out a game. If the latter, how about you support your local team a bit and get out to a few extra games other than just when the Pens are in town?
You don't need to stop supporting the Pens, Flyers, Red Wings, or whoever your team may be, but if you want to keep seeing them without traveling back to your hometown, then you better make sure the Coyotes are still here in the future. Apologies for the rant, but the crowd was fabulous and while they may have been cheering for the visitors, they also brought out the best in the Phoenix fans as well as they were much louder than I've heard since opening night (coincidentally when another team's fans stormed the arena).
Another busy and tough week for the Coyotes starts tonight in Detroit to face the Red Wings for the third of four meetings this year. Then Wednesday night the team will face defending Stanley Cup Champs Chicago for the first time this year before returning home for a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday against Calgary and the best team in the league St. Louis. Hopefully the Coyotes start to find their stride despite likely being without Doan this week. More than ever, players like Ray Whitney, Taylor Pyatt, Kyle Turris, Petr Prucha and Wojtek Wolski will need to start providing the spark necessary.