Monday, November 19, 2007

Say Coyotes, ‘If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em…senseless’

Note: This column appears in the 11/21 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/23 issue of the Peoria Times

On November 10th, in what would eventually become a 2-1 Sharks’ victory over Phoenix, former Coyote Jeremy Roenick became the third American-born player to reach 500 goals.

On November 12, the Sharks’ Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi each scored twice as San Jose shutout the Coyotes 5-0.

Excited at the prospect of watching the Coyotes potentially turn the tables on this one-sided “rivalry,” I went to this past Thursday’s game, which was Phoenix’s third straight against San Jose. And, at the risk of ruining a week-old surprise, the Sharks won 6-0.

For those scoring at home, last week -- a week that started, mind you, with Phoenix on a very modest two-game winning streak -- resulted in a 13-1 loss, mixed in with some milestones for the opposition, a 2-7 home record, and a last place showing in the Western Conference.

Yikes.

Admittedly, I am no hockey connoisseur. But this was the third time this season I have watched the Coyotes play live, and to me at least, it doesn’t appear that they have much of a game plan. I get the impression that if I could actually skate, and handle a puck, even I could fit into the Coyotes’ offensive scheme, which seems to be, “Skate around, see what happens, whatever.” So that may need a little work. The good news? The Coyotes are far from unwatchable, because they’re kicking the crap of people.

Not metaphorically, of course. Literally. One thing that this young, impressionable Coyotes’ team does not lack, as far as I’m concerned, is aggression. During last Thursday’s game, Coyotes’ defenseman Nick Boynton sat out due to a suspension he had earned from instigating a fight during the last five minutes of the previous game’s loss to San Jose. That game was marked with physical play, mostly on the Coyotes end, including a Shane Doan hit that sent Milan Michalek to the locker room, a scuffle involving Derek Morris, and a chop on the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski.

Hey, nice!

As far as last Thursday’s game was concerned, the crowd came to its feet three times during the game, which is approximately three more times than a crowd should come to its feet during a 6-0 loss. They were 1) after a vicious hit by Keith Ballard that sent Setoguchi over the boards and into the Coyotes’ bench, 2) after an altercation involving Ed Jovanovski and Daniel Carcillo beating up on some Sharks, which resulted in a four-minute roughing penalty for Carcillo, and 3) when goaltender Alex Auld, who had given up three goals, was replaced in favor of Mikael Tellqvist (who subsequently gave up three more goals).

Many crowds would have come their feet a fourth time, to leave, after the score reached 4-0. But Coyotes’ fans stayed, booed a little bit at the lack of any offensive cohesion, but ultimately waited for that next big hit.


Stop SCORING on us!

And ya’ know what? I’ll take it. Maybe Phoenix is not going to win the Stanley Cup this year, but at least they’ll hurt somebody who might. And isn’t that what hockey is all about?

(No, really. Is it? I don’t know much about hockey.)

Anyway, near the end of one of the two Coyotes’ home victories this season, a 5-2 win over the Stars on Nov 7th, Shane Doan knocked a Stars’ player to the ice in retaliation for a check the guy had just issued to one of Doan’s teammates. Not only did it bring us all to our feet in enjoyment, but it was also a sign of what the Phoenix Coyotes could be in time, which is to say, very physical and also, ya’ know, good at hockey.

In the meantime, the Coyotes will continue to remind me of the bumper sticker that reads, “My kid just beat up your honor student.” And I for one urge the Coyotes to keep the hits, if not the wins, coming.


What were you DOING out there?! It looked like you had a PLAN!

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