Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
After what has been a roller coaster ride of a season for the Phoenix Coyotes, any hopes of games beyond Sunday night has been nullified. With the Dallas Stars win over the St. Louis Blues on Friday night, it became a statistical improbability that the ‘Yotes could reach the Postseason, leaving them close, yet so far.
Knowing that there was nothing that could be done, goalie Mark Visentin got the honor of making his NHL debut this evening against a team poised for a deep run at Lord Stanley’s Cup, in the San Jose Sharks. For the seventh consecutive game, Phoenix has lost. At the worst conceivable time, the Coyotes have ended their run dubbed “Phoenix” in miserable fashion.
Life in the NHL is no cakewalk as Visentin found out in his first period of action. They don’t make them like Joe Pavelski down in the lower throngs, as the Sharks leading scorer buried both his 40th and 41st goals of the season in the first period.
For maybe the first time during the losing streak, the ‘Yotes actually had a sustained attack that kept the opposing goaltender on his toes. Even though he punched in a goal in the middle of the second period, Mike Ribeiro could have had a hat trick on the night had the bounces gone his way. Once he went off the post, and another shot was denied in traffic.
Before he could nearly get his bearings in the third period, Logan Couture flicked a wrister past the unassuming Visentin. Having his goaltender’s back, Shane Doan scored almost immediately after the fact, for the second goal just a minute into the period. The onslaught for the rest of the game stayed rapid, but it was not enough to push another puck past Sharks netminder Antti Niemi.
A game that was nearly even in every facet felt destined for overtime. Taking the same amount of shots, and being nearly even in hits and face-offs won, the Sharks did not seem to overly dominate the contest. Regardless, they came into Glendale and picked up two more points to help their playoff seeding.
There was so much promise in the air after picking up a point against the New York Rangers, but the devastating injury to Mike Smith crippled more than just the goaltending. To say that the offense has not been effected would be irresponsible; they’ve scored either none or one goal four times since the incident.
In what could have been one of the most significant games in franchise history had the team not completely folded over the past few weeks, the ‘Yotes will host the Dallas Stars Sunday night in the season’s conclusion. It will still be “Fan Appreciation” Night, and the last game they will play in franchise history as the Phoenix Coyotes, before switching to the Arizona Coyotes.
It would be awfully coincidental for the team to end their season with a heartbreaking loss, but for the sake of Coyotes fans, they deserve one final win to remind them what could have been.