Goaltender Darcy Kuemper kept his team afloat for as long as he could, but the dam eventually broke open in a 3-0 Coyotes shutout loss against the Colorado Avalanche in game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Coyotes were out played, out shot, and out muscled by the Avs. The story lies within the numbers. Colorado outshot Arizona 40-14. They only had eight shots after two periods, and only three shots after the first period. Additionally, the Avs controlled puck possession throughout the matchup.
Tocchet knew this series would be an uphill battle, but Wednesday’s efforts fell short on all fronts. The one bright spot was Kuemper, who kept his team in the game.
“I’m just disappointed in the club because it’s a big opportunity and we had a terrible practice yesterday,” said head coach Rick Tocchet. “I really don’t want to get into it anymore. The players know how I feel. You guys saw it. Darcy Kuemper kept us in. That’s basically it.”
The Coyotes expected to play a defensive brand of hockey throughout the series with Colorado, hoping to limit scoring opportunities for the Avalanche on the rush.
For the most part, that part of the game plan was executed, as they kept many Avalanche scoring opportunities from the outside of the offensive zone in the first period. However, as the game wore on, the pressure built and no offensive push was sustained on the Coyotes side.
“I kind of felt like we were keeping them on the outside and they were coming from the blue line,” captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “Kuemper’s a good goalie and he’s going to stop it if he sees the puck. But at the same time, we’ve got to create more. I thought we backed off a little bit too much and maybe gave them a little bit too much respect for them.”
The Coyotes got stuck defending for too long, and in a one-sided stalemate, the Avs finally broke through with three goals in less than two minutes in the third. One was a power play goal from forward Nazim Kadri, and then two more came off the sticks of J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen.
Tocchet wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort in practice the day prior, and that carried over into the game. On Tuesday, the Coyotes coach deemed the Avalanche a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that is ready for a deep run, and if Wednesday was any indication, they flexed that muscle.
Aside from Kuemper, there weren’t many positives out of Wednesday’s Yotes’ defeat. Tocchet called his guys out, and he expects more moving forward after his team was on its heels.
“You got to put your big boy pants on. This is a Colorado team that is a powerhouse team and you got to be able to have details in your game, but you also can’t back up,” Tocchet said. “You got to go. You have to make a play, make a pass, you got to win a battle. Like I said, the scary thing is it’s 0-0 with eight minutes to go and we have a power play. We could squeak that one out, but we didn’t have the fortitude to do it.”