The Phoenix Coyotes continued to struggle with a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night. The loss was their sixth loss in their past eight games, dropping them to sixth overall in the Western Conference.
Sharks forward Patrick Marleau showed it is much easier to produce with out the pressure of the captain's “C” burning on the right side of his jersey by posting both a short handed goal and a power play goal in the first period. He later added an assist on a Dany Heatley wrap around.
Marleau's first goal, a shorthanded marker, was due to a strong fore check on his part and a puck mishandling by Coyotes goaltender Jason Labarbera. The second was a deflection off of two previous deflections from a Dan Boyle point shot. Sound confusing? So was the play. Dan Boyle's flutter shot from the point looked to hit two different Sharks players sticks before hitting Marleau's on its journey to the back of the net.
With exception to the first Sharks goal, Labarbera was not at fault during this contest as his defense seemed uninterested in helping him out throughout the night.
The third and final goal for the Sharks can prove that theory perfectly as Dany Heatley attempted wrap around was stopped by Labarbera, but due to the defense standing around watching, he was able to get his own rebound and put it just past Labarbera, who faced 32 shots in the game.
Radim Vrbata scored the lone goal on Evgeni Nabokov, who was peppered with 33 shots from the Coyotes. The goal was only Vrbata's second goal in 8 games, a trend that needs changing if the Coyotes want to start winning more games.
The current funk the Coyotes are in is beginning to look vaguely familiar to last season when the Coyotes were holding the fifth place spot in the West going into the All Star break. but then their inexperience and inability to win games caused them to end up with the sixth worst record in the league.
The difference between this years crop of players and last years is two things:
1. A coach with successful credentials that has an actual system implemented
2. More veteran players that know how to perform down the stretch and are used to a long grinding NHL season.
These are two HUGE upgrades from last year and the Coyotes cannot let deja vu occur and let their playoff hopes slip away from them. They are an extremely fortunate team having only 3 players competing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, one of them being Ilya Bryzgalov, who may not see much time with Evgeni Nabokov being considered the number 1 goalie for Russia.
This can be both a good and a bad thing as it gives the team plenty of rest to get mentally prepared for the final two months of the season and making a strong push to finish n the top 8. But going two weeks without a game can also be a bad thing as it showed last year with only one week off for the All Star break, the Coyotes began their plummet to the basement.
This can also tire a lot of the players involved as the teams competing with the Coyotes for a top 8 spot right now have a combined 45 players in Olympic competition. Of those teams only two, Calgary and Colorado, have an equal number of players in the tournament.
The Coyotes need to get back to the basics of the system put into practice by Coach Dave Tippett and start helping their goaltenders out offensively so they can have more insurance for fluke goals. This team may not have the big superstar, but it has all the right pieces in place to be a playoff caliber team.
Nobody gave them a chance at the beginning of the season and now it is their job to prove those people wrong. The team NEEDS to make the playoffs, not only for financial reasons, but for fan base reasons too. As I have harped in the past, Phoenix based fans will not support a losing team, but if you win THEY WILL COME!!!
If the Coyotes can find a way to keep playing hockey with the passion and hard work they displayed before the past six games, then they can easily make it into the playoffs and continue gaining the fans back that they had when they were at America West Arena (Now the US Airways Center) during their time of success.
The Coyotes next game is Thursday night at home against the Eastern Conference leading New Jersey Devils. Wining this game against a team as good as the Devils can be the boost of confidence the team needs to snap out of thier skid and back to pre-January hockey.
About the Author
Written by Matt Shott
22 year old hockey fan born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Weird, huh? Entire family minus myself and my brother were born in Toronto, ON so thats how I became a fan of this great sport. I have worked at Ice rinks since I was 14 and spend all day reading hockey stories. I eat, sleep, coach, play, and basically LIVE hockey. I became a Red Wing fan thanks to EA Sports NHL '95 and haven't looked back since (Why would I?). Parents were Season Ticket holders for the Phoenix Coyotes since day 1 and when they moved to Portland 3 years ago, I picked up where they left off and have found a soft spot for them. I moved to Toronto in January '10 to attend Centennial College's Sports Journalism program, so I am becoming a Maple Leafs fan in the process. Its hard to do after 16 years of being a Red Wings fan. So to recap: Wings fan at heart, Leafs fan on the outside, and always carry a soft spot for the Coyotes.