Arizona Coyotes Show Glimpses Of Success In OT Win Against Sharks
The Arizona Coyotes came through for an overtime win against the Sharks with some great goaltending and several strokes of luck. But the team also showed glimpses of what it needs to be a winner in the Pacific Division.
Arizona Coyotes fans were treated to a win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
After squandering a 2-0 lead going into the third period, the Yotes’ Martin Hanzal scored for a 3-2 win in overtime.
Such is life for the Arizona Coyotes. They’re no stranger to giving up leads when they have them.
Their 3-on-3 overtime skills, especially with puck possession, have been lacking. The last three games they’ve played have gone into overtime.
But there was something different about this game.
It wasn’t just the win.
That was nice, especially for the home crowd. But the team, from coaching all the way down to the individual players, made some crucial decisions tonight very different from recent games.
For starters, let’s admit when luck plays a role. Sure, Mike Smith stopped 43 shots and had some stellar saves that will go in the highlight reels for weeks to come. The Shark’s 45 shots were a season-high for the Yotes.
Mike Smith also had some added incentive.
On Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the arena, Smith had reportedly dedicated the game to his niece currently fighting leukemia. So lots of extra effort was being summoned by the veteran netminder.
However, no goaltender, no matter how hot, can stop so many quality shots without the pucks bouncing the right way several times during the game.
Aside from the bits of luck around the goal, one of the two referees left the game during the first period and didn’t return. That left the teams to get away with all kinds of shenanigans behind the play, and they surely did.
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The Coyotes usually commit some very unhealthy penalties during these close games. Aside from a couple of too-many-men penalties they absolutely earned, they emerged largely unscathed which helped them keep things close.
Head Coach Dave Tippett’s decision to sideline rookie forward Dylan Strome in favor of a seventh defenseman also proved clairvoyant. Strome has made little impact in the games he has appeared in, and rookie Jakob Chychrun’s play during the first two periods was inconsistent.
Having a seventh blue-liner in Luke Schenn proved to be helpful. Chychrun saw the bench during the third period.
Fans were glad to see the young star taking the initiative. Hopefully we’ll see more of that.
In addition, face offs showed improvement with the Coyotes winning about half of them. This goes a long way toward improving puck possession, an area the team desperately needs to build on.
The Coyotes also apparently learned something about puck possession from their overtime games this season.
It certainly took a while though.
Right off the faceoff, the Yotes took possession and began to utilize Mike Smith to retain ownership of the puck. Keeping control in overtime is crucial given the 3-on-3 format, and this is an area the Coyotes have utterly failed in all season.
Kicking it back to Smith, who has perhaps the league’s best puck handling capabilities among goaltenders, allowed the Coyotes to set up and move into the offensive zone for an initial opportunity.
Usually the Yotes are spectators during overtime, watching the opposing team move the puck around at will. In this game, the team took control and seized the opportunities.
This was a giant leap forward for the Red Moon Rising.
The Arizona Coyotes may be starting to clean things up. If this big win against San Jose is an indication of things to come, fans may be jumping back on the bandwagon.