6-2 L. 6-3 L. 4-2 W. The first three regular season games are in the books for the Coyotes. I hate to use luck as an excuse, but the Coyotes were unlucky as they faced the Penguins and Bruins in their home opener. Many professional athletes thrive in season openers because they are able to use the atmosphere from the crowd to push themselves and bring their game to a new level. Unfortunately for the Yotes, the Penguins faced them for the first time since their bitter, unlucky playoff loss last season and they came out flying. As I said, bad luck for the Yotes.
The 6-3 L against the Bruins was actually somewhat admirable. After starting the 3rd period down 3-1, the Coyotes only needed six minutes and goals from Brown and Gostisbehere to tie the game. However, the momentum stopped there as the Bruins scored three goals to win the game 6-3.
Despite the lack of star power, the Coyotes beat the Maple Leafs 4-2 after a controversial call went against the Leafs. Personally, I’m not as surprised as other people because Arizona has always played well against Toronto and they had a 12-4-2 record against Toronto since 2011 prior to their first win of the 2022/23 regular season. Additionally, the Coyotes won with Erik Kallgren being in net for Toronto. I don’t blame you if you don’t know Kallgren because he is an AHL goalie who only had 14 NHL games of experience prior to facing the Coyotes. Nonetheless, the Coyotes should be proud because this game exemplifies the potential of the team and they can challenge teams with their trap system.
In honor of the Coyotes surviving the first three games against three powerhouses, here are three takeaways based on the games, thus far.
Where’s the defense?
Poor Vejmelka. The poor guy has faced 123 shots in the first three games, thus far (53 in the Penguins game, 42 in the Bruins game, and 28 in the Leafs game). Clearly, the defense was ‘out of the office’ for the first two games and Vejmelka had to face nearly two games worth of shots in each game. Despite improving and limiting the Leafs to only 28 shots, the Coyotes were still out-shot. For the Coyotes to remain competitive in games, they need to help their goalie and minimize their opponent’s shots on net. Fewer shots for the opponents will decrease the odds of the Coyotes allowing six goals in a game.
Who’s going to step up on offense?
Nick Schmaltz was injured in the season opener against the Penguins and will be out six to eight weeks with an upper-body injury. Along with Keller, Schmaltz was an offensive threat last season and was second on the team in scoring with 23 G-36 A- 59 P in 63 GP. With Schmaltz out for a while, the Coyotes will need players to step to fill in the void. Schmaltz’s injury is devastating but it is exciting to see who will step up and hopefully breakout.
Are we living in Nick Ritchie’s world?
Nick Ritchie could not find a place in Anaheim so he was traded to Boston. He also did not fit in with Boston so he signed with Toronto in the 2021 offseason and struggled significantly. Midway through last season, he was traded to Arizona and found decent success. After the first three games, Ritchie has 3 G- 1 A- 4 P along with 8 PIMs which include two roughing penalties. Ritchie has played well; if he can continue being a regular contributor, this might be Ritchie’s coming out party as a legitimate power forward. Hopefully, I did not jinx anything by saying that.
Should Jakob Chychrun play?
In a recent 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliote Friedman shared that the Ottawa Senators have strong interest in Jakob Chychrun but the Sens aren’t willing to pay the price for the talented defenseman. Given that the Sens and the Coyotes are in a bit of a stalemate, it seems that the best course of action is for Jakob Chychrun to return to the Coyotes line-up, play well, and increase his stock value so that the Coyotes can receive an appropriate return and Chychrun will (hopefully) play for a good team.