GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes (0-2-0) are on pace to not win a game or score a goal all season.
The fact that that statement is so silly and exaggerative is a testament to where the Coyotes are at in their season: A mere 2.4 percent of the way through with it. Their fate is not sealed. The wheels are not off.
“It’s only two games into the season,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “We’ve got to chill out here. We’ve played two pretty good games and we can’t score right now, it is what it is.”
Tocchet is not one to beat around the bush. In the past, when he is displeased with his team’s performance, he will say so. After the Coyotes’ 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Arizona’s home opener on Saturday — a game in which Arizona out-shot the Ducks 41-20 — there wasn’t distress nor dismay in Tocchet’s comments. There was no lambasting of his team’s effort or decision-making.
He did, however, say that the team failed to seize some opportunities to shoot the puck, and also got “antsy” on a critical 5-on-3 advantage that the Coyotes had to end the game. Had they scored, the game likely would’ve gone to overtime.
Instead, the game was decided by a breakaway goal by Anaheim rookie forward Max Comtois, his second through the first two games of his young career. The goal occurred when Nik Hjalmarsson pinched on a play along the wall, and the puck bounced out into open space. Cam Fowler grabbed it and passed it up to Comtois, who took off and scored five-hole on Antti Raanta with 0:32 remaining in the second period.
Raanta said he didn’t believe Comtois intended to shoot the puck as low as he did. The Coyotes goaltender stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced.
Part of the issue with the Coyotes’ loss on Saturday was that, while they had plenty of shots, lots of them didn’t result in second and third opportunities on a play. Ducks goalie John Gibson made his fair share of big saves for his first shutout of the year.
But as Tocchet said, there were enough scoring chances for Arizona to win the hockey game, and the Ducks didn’t have many.
“I thought we played a really good game over 60 minutes,” Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “We gave up some chances, obviously. But [Antti Raanta] was there and it was kind of hard for Raants, too, he doesn’t have much and a couple breakaways and stuff like that. But overall I thought we played really good and that’s a game that we have to build on.”
Arizona out-shot Anaheim 22-4 in the third period.
“I think anybody watching that game tonight, you could see that we were hungry, we were all over the pucks and we had all our chances and their goaltender played great,” Derek Stepan, who had nine shots in the game, said. “Just sucks right now, especially being the first two games of the year that we’re in them. But a good little test for us and get ourselves ready to play back in Anaheim.”
–Jordan Oesterle and Barrett Hayton were the scratches for Arizona on Saturday. Ilya Lyubuskin made his NHL debut, played on a defensive pairing with Alex Goligoski. Lyubushkin signed as a free agent with the Coyotes in May after playing in the KHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
–Luke Schenn, who played for the Coyotes the last two seasons and signed with Anaheim in the offseason, was scratched in his return to Gila River Arena. The Ducks’ other scratches were Pontus Aberg and Isac Lundestrom.
The Coyotes go back on the road again to face the Anaheim Ducks, again. That game isn’t until Wednesday. Then they’ll return home to play Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.