NHL on NBCSN: Coyotes need to develop killer instinct

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Arizona Coyotes and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Arizona Coyotes are off to a decent start this year, as they’re 9-6-2 through 17 games, but they’ve also been very streaky. From Oct. 3-12, the ‘Yotes went 1-2-1. They followed that up by picking up eight wins in their next 10 games and they’re now in the middle of an 0-2-1 slump.

The most disappointing part of Arizona’s three-game losing streak, is that they had a lead in each one of those games.

In last Tuesday’s loss to the Calgary Flames, they were up 2-0 and 3-1 before losing in overtime. In Thursday’s home loss to Columbus, they were up 2-1 late in the second period. In Saturday’s loss to Minnesota, again, they were up 2-0 and 3-1 before blowing that advantage, too. Teams with serious playoff aspirations don’t blow points away like that.

“It’s not so much about the percentages,” head coach Rick Tocchet said before Thursday’s loss to the Blue Jackets, per the Arizona Republic. “I go by the timely stuff. Like it’s 3-1 and can we make it 4-1? When you get that power play, you can put the nail in the coffin. But we were sloppy. That was the disappointing part to me. It definitely wasn’t good. We lost the specials team battle (in Calgary) and lost the game.”

Despite the advantages that they’ve held, the ‘Yotes are still just 21st in the NHL in goals scored, with 49. Their power play has also struggled, as it’s currently ranked 22nd in the league. So this team can’t play a run-and-gun style if they have to come back from a blown lead. That’s part of the issue. When the jump ahead in a game, they need to make sure they close it out before their opponent can come back.

“We’ve got to figure it out, we can’t let that happen,” forward Michael Grabner said after his team’s most recent loss. “Every point matters, and right now we’ve got to get back on track. I think if you told us two, three weeks ago that we had a 3-1 lead and we were going to lose in regulation, I don’t think we would have believed you, so we’ve got to get back to the basics and play our style of hockey.”

Things won’t get any easier for the Coyotes this week. They’ll start with two road games against the last two Stanley Cup winners. They get the Caps tonight and the St. Louis Blues tomorrow. They finish off this road trip with a trip to Minnesota on Thursday night. So that means they’ll play three road games in four nights before returning home on Saturday to take on the Flames.

Getting more offense out of Phil Kessel would certainly help Arizona’s chances of winning games. The 32-year-old has three goals and 10 points in 17 games this season. It’s important to note that two of those goals came in one game. He’s also failed to score in four consecutive games and he’s scored just once in his last 11 outings.

It’s still early enough that the Coyotes shouldn’t be overly concerned about the lack of production from their star winger, but he has to get going soon. If they had other players that were filling the net, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but the fact that they can’t produce much is a problem if Kessel can’t do more.

Nobody thought the ‘Yotes would be a slam dunk to make the playoffs, so the fact that they’re just one point out of a Wild Card spot with games in hand as we approach the quarter mark of the season isn’t such a bad thing.

John Walton and Pierre McGuire will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Ahmed Fareed will host coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Anson Carter.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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