With apologies to author Charles Dickens, this is not the best of times for the Phoenix Coyotes.
While this is also not the worst of times, this start of the hockey season, for the Coyotes, has been less than productive. With 10 games in the books, Phoenix is 13th of out of 15 teams in the NHL's Western Conference. Not only is the franchise sitting in an unexpected location, there appears to be only a slight sense of urgency. Slight, here, might be the important variable.
"Obviously, we are not 10-0, so we have a great deal of work to do," said defenseman Keith Yandle, after the Coyotes dropped a 3-0 decision to Tampa Bay last Saturday night. "Good thing about being 10 games in is that we have 72 left where we can get better,"
Perhaps there is the need to step up play almost immediately, and especially critical in the goal-scoring department.
Here, the Coyotes are tied for last in the conference in scoring. Through the Tampa Bay defeat, Phoenix has scored 23 goals in its 10 games, and Nashville has also scored 23 goals. That production also equals the 23 goal output from Toronto and only the New Jersey Devils, with 20 goals, represents the lowest scoring team in the league.
Scoring goals for the Coyotes has been a challenge.
Throughout the recent decade, the Phoenix have lacked "a sniper," or that 40-plus goal-scorer. While a solid defense and strong goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov carried Phoenix into the playoffs a year ago, it is a continued lack of scoring which remains troubling.
"I still don't think we're where need to be," said coach Dave Tippett after last Saturday's Tampa Bay game. "We have many players that stat-wise can contribute much more."
That would begin with captain Shane Doan. While Doan missed three games in October due to a league suspension, he has recorded no goals and only 2 assists in 7 games so far. Also included in the Zero Goals Club is forwards Wojtek Wolski, Vernon Fiddler, Petr Prucha, Ray Whitney, and defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who scored 8 last season and led the NHL in six shootout deciding goals.
Because of his lack of production, Wolski was benched for last Saturday's game against the Lightning.
Clearly, not scoring has a rippling effect.
"We want to be a strong defensive team, but if you are chasing from behind and not scoring, it's pretty hard to be a strong defensive team," Tippett added. "We need more contributions throughout our group."
With Nashville visiting Jobing.Com Arena Wednesday night, the production needs to improve. That was is evident to the Coyotes captain.
"We have to be more consistent," Doan said. "Guys that are expected to score more have to step up and have to score."
ICE CHIPS ... For the past three home games, the Coyotes have drawn less than 8,200 for each the Kings, the Hurricanes and the Lightning. The Predators are not expected to draw a large crowd Wednesday night and this conflicts with a home game of the Phoenix Suns. ... Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town Saturday night, and near capacity crowd is expected.
Through the team's opening 10 games, Bryzgalov is 18th in the league in goals against. In 9 game appearances, he sports a 2.61 goals against and that compares to league leader TIm Thomas of the Bruins (0.50 in 6 games). Last season, Bryzgalov went 42-20-6, 2.29 goals against and in seven playoff games, he was 3-4, 3.44 goals against.
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