So…The Coyotes have had a five game losing streak dating back to the start of their road trip on Thursday the 14th. There are a couple of reasons this team has started to struggle besides the tight schedule and lack of practice time that I see. The three main reasons are their desperation, execution, and accountability.
Desperation- The Coyotes have shown a lack of desperation in the losing streak. To be more specific, they aren’t desperate to start games. I have seen them get desperate after getting shut out for 3 games and 2 periods. However, they don’t continue the effort after they get an important goal (if they do). They seem to get their lead or game tying goal and then breathe a sigh of relief instead of pushing hard for the next one. There is a lot of let off on this team. Desperation is needed in today’s NHL. The teams are so good and close in levels that every night could have any team win. One could look at the Columbus Blue Jackets as a good example of this. They were dwelling on the bottom of the standings and rose right back into the race with a solid stretch of play. They got more desperate than the teams playing them.
Execution- The Coyotes have had stretches during this streak where they have actually dominated the other team in possession and zone time. Yet, they find the puck in the back of their net. This is because the Yotes have been getting grade A scoring chances and either firing them wide, getting stopped, or simply passing it up for some reason. The team hesitates to shoot a split second at times… which allows the opposition to make blocks. The last loss so far in the losing streak was spurred by a turnover by Matthew Lombardi in the slot of the opposition’s goal crease after he tried to make a pass instead of throw the puck on net. The puck went back to the Yote’s zone and was put into the net for the game winning goal. Not to pick on Lombardi, but that is the perfect example of things that can’t be happening if the Yotes want to win games. They are not super skilled and need to put in every chance they get. I look at those missed chances as a two goal swing. What should be a 1-0 lead for the Yotes becomes a 0-1 hole. Spotting the other teams easy goals and not burying your chances will not lead to wins for any team.
Accountability- There is a distinct lack of accountability on this team right now. There have been games were a couple of players didn’t seem to be into it. Yet, nothing happens to them to show them that they need to give it all every night. Not that the fans can see, anyways. There have been costly mistakes made over and over again. There are turnovers by the same person in the same area that are not being taken care of by the coaching staff. After this last loss, the team captains finally had a long team meeting to sort things out. Hopefully this is the accountability that has been lacking.
Another little issue that I see is the goaltending has been average at best. Mike Smith’s numbers are around .900 save percentage. For a team that is supposedly very defensive, that number is not good enough. It is partly from the lack of defense in front of him, but there is something else too. In my opinion, he makes the easy and average saves this year but has not been able to pull any magic out of the hat. Last season he could steal us games where we were having a poor defensive effort. However, he looks uncomfortable this season and he hasn’t been able to have a game saving performance really. His glove side was unbeatable last season but this season there has been a surprising amount of shots getting past his glove. Hopefully he can tweak his game and the team can become a cohesive defensive unit in front of him.
We will see how the team meeting and extra practice time pays off when the Yotes take on the Red Wings on Monday. The Red Wings will be on the second half of a back to back. There will be no excuse for the Coyotes to not play well. If they continue to struggle, I expect there will be some changes coming (if they aren’t already).
Have a good weekend everybody!