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Multiple factors have contributed to the Coyotes’ 11-game losing streak

Raz Devraj Avatar
February 25, 2024
John Tavares scores in the Maple Leafs' win against the Coyotes.

It’s shocking how quickly things can turn for a team during the season. In the blink of an eye, the Coyotes went from pushing for a playoff spot to being in the conversation for the 2024 projected first-overall pick, Macklin Celebrini. Fans went from talking about the potential buzz of Mullett magic in the playoffs to playing around with the draft lottery simulator. 

Things were looking up for the Coyotes before they embarked on that three-game Southeastern U.S. road trip before the All-Star break. The vibes were high and there was positivity in the locker room after they picked up three wins and seven points in their last five games before the road trip. For the first time in a long time, the path to a playoff berth wasn’t out of reach, as they were right in the thick of things, sitting just two points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference behind the Nashville Predators with two games in hand. 

The Coyotes’ last win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Jan. 22. It’s been more than a month since this team has been able to collect two points and they are currently riding an 11-game winless streak, which is tied for the second longest winless streak in the franchise’s Arizona tenure. To show just how much things have changed for the worse, the Coyotes went from being two points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 22 to now being 14 points out just over a month later, and heading into Sunday’s difficult game at Winnipeg; the start of a five-game road trip. 

“It’s a tough league, there’s no easy nights. You gotta stick together, you can’t dwell, you can’t look into the past too much,” Coyotes forward Nick Bjugstad said. “You gotta try and come to the rink with energy and positivity and some days it’s hard when you’re losing like this so it’s just finding that, and it’ll come here but we gotta find a way to make it sooner than later.”

This group is at its lowest point of the season. Morale and confidence are at rock bottom, the locker room hasn’t emptied out quicker than it has over the past couple of weeks, and it doesn’t help that there are endless amounts of outside noise and distractions to go along with the poor play which have clearly been difficult for them to block out entirely.

“It’s easy to play when you are confident,” coach André Tourigny said. “When you’re confident you’re playing with energy, you’re playing with pace, life is good, the sky is blue. Obviously right now our confidence is extremely fragile and we need to learn to get that back and play in those situations and want to play in those situations.”

Connor McDavid was just one of the many challenges the Coyotes have faced recently.
Connor McDavid had two assists in the Edmonton Oilers’ 6-3 win vs. the Coyotes at Mullett Arena Feb. 19.
(Getty Images)

While the off-ice issues are present and have affected the players during this slump, it’s been just as much of a mess on the ice. 

The biggest downfall of the Coyotes for the past month has been their inability to get going from the drop of the puck. It takes about half a period for them to find their legs and unfortunately, by the time they have found their game, they are already down and playing from behind. Constantly playing from behind alters the way a team plays, and it takes a toll on the players’ psyche. 

The Coyotes have allowed a league-high 36 goals in the first 10 minutes of games this season. During this 11-game winless streak, they have allowed the first goal nine times, and they have been down by a goal or more heading into the second period seven times in the past eleven games. Out of the 11 games on this losing streak, they have played nine comfortable playoff teams in which they have allowed these teams to build momentum and get in a groove right off the bat, making a comeback attempt near impossible.

The second period has been their strongest period where they have tried their best to keep games close and have had most of their offensive production. The Coyotes have scored a total of 26 goals throughout the past 11 games with the most (10 goals) coming in the second period. But then in the third period, they fall apart. It’s not surprising that they have continued to lose games when a strong effort is only on display for a third of the game. 

Playing from behind is not something any team should be continuously dealing with, but another noticeable factor is that the Coyotes aren’t getting that big save from their goaltenders during crucial parts of the game. When they have made a strong effort to try and come back in the second period, the momentum is quickly drained by a goal allowed, and on top of that one goal has led to another and the game once again gets out of reach. It has been the most apparent in the past two games against the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. 

The Coyotes were up 3-2 heading into the third period against the Oilers before allowing four unanswered goals. Against the Leafs, Dylan Guenther made it 4-3 heading into the third where Karel Vejmelka then had two opportunities to make that big save to keep his team in the game but could not do so against both William Nylander and John Tavares. 

Something has to give because you either need to have a goalie who can make that crucial save to keep games within reach, or you have to find a way to stop continuously playing from behind, otherwise you can’t expect anything other than a long losing streak. 

If sloppy, lazy starts weren’t enough of a reason as to why the Coyotes have lost 11 straight, being undisciplined has been another major factor. They have taken 55 penalties during this losing streak which is tied for the league lead, that’s an average of five penalties a game which is nowhere near a reasonable amount. You can’t expect to win games when you are on the penalty kill as much as the Coyotes have been during this tough stretch. 

“We have been harping on it for a while now. It kills you and it’s unacceptable,” Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton said. 

Being on the penalty kill a lot means less and less time in the offensive zone. It also tires out the strongest defensive forwards on the team which causes more defensive breakdowns that eventually lead to high-danger scoring chances. While most of the time, no penalty is a good penalty, certain ones are worse than others. 

The Coyotes have taken a league-high three bench minor penalties during this 11-game losing streak, something that can be avoidable. They have also been careless and lazy with their sticks, 22 of the 55 penalties (40 percent) have been a result of some sort of stick infraction whether it’s been a hook, a trip, a slash, or a high-stick. It doesn’t help that the penalty kill percentage hasn’t been all that great either during these past 11 games, operating at 75.6 percent. For reference, the sixth-worst penalty-kill percentage in the league right now is operating at 75.3 percent. 

When things are going bad, they are going bad and it begins to seem like there isn’t a solution to stop the bleeding. Bad habits become more apparent, discipline goes out the window and fundamentals start to fade. That is what this team is going through right now but all it takes is one 60-minute effort where they get back to the basics and find a way to pull through with two points.

The Coyotes head to Canada for four games and they will continue to be tested in dealing with their on-ice struggles as well as the off-ice noise. While the Winnipeg Jets and Maple Leafs will most certainly give this Coyotes team trouble, there is no reason why they can’t show a competitive effort against the Ottawa Senators or Montreal Canadiens and give themselves a chance to end this awful stretch. 

“I think for us we need to [avoid] a distraction from the noise and focus on the process and what we have to do,” Tourigny said.”

Top photo via Getty Images

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