The gauntlet has been thrown down to the Arizona Coyotes, and not only by their opposition in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Edmonton.
Coach Rick Tocchet, on top of calling his team’s performance a “total debacle,” had some pointed words for his players after Monday’s 7-1 beatdown by the Colorado Avalanche, who have the Coyotes down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series that could be clinched as early as Wednesday afternoon.
“This whole bubble thing … it’s about who wants to stay,” Tocchet said. “You can tell who wants to stay and who wants to go home. For this game, it looked like we wanted to go home. We’ll see about the next game.”
Before the series started, most people would have said the No. 7 seed Coyotes were in for a tough one against the high-octane Avalanche, the No. 2 seeds. Still, the Coyotes fought to the end through the first three games.
But it all fell apart on Monday in the Game 4 loss.
“It’s not good enough to come out like that when it’s a 2-1 series,” captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “We had the chance to tie the series. It was a big game for us. Not good enough.”
The next game will be a test for the Coyotes.
“I know everyone’s going to say, ‘You got no chance next game,’ but I’m looking for some character from some guys,” Tocchet said after the game. “I saw some stuff that I didn’t like. We have 24-36 hours to regain something.”
The loss also came with a cost. The Coyotes, who have been without top-line forward Nick Schmaltz, saw Conor Garland leave the game with an undisclosed injury after he went down awkwardly following a first-period check from Tyson Jost. He didn’t practice Tuesday and is questionable for Wednesday.
The Avalanche, who have looked strong since the league resumed play following the more than four-month break amid the coronavirus, have a chance for a quick series win. The test will be whether they show killer instinct.
“We have to be hungry for Game 5,” center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We have to play desperate like we’re down a game. We have to be ready to close them out in Game 5.”
The Avs had extra fire in Game 4.
“We were hungry,” said Matt Calvert, who had a two-point outing. “We had so many chances in Game 3 (despite firing 51 shots on goal, the Avs lost 4-2). It was nice to get that early (goal) and we just kept going from there.”
Helping their chances is that just about everyone is clicking for the Avs. In Monday’s game, it was Nazem Kadri again stepping up with a two-goal, three-point outing, which gives him nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games.
“I just try to come to play and compete every single night, that’s what good pros do,” Kadri said. “I didn’t have my best game last game and I just wanted to give it everything I had. Got a couple nice breaks early. That makes the rest of the game a little bit easier.”
A quick series win would help the Avs to get healthy. Center Vladislav Namestnikov missed a second straight game after being hurt in Game 2, and winger Andre Burakovsky blocked a shot early in the third period on Monday and left the game. Coach Jared Bednar said Wednesday that he expected Burakovsky would play.
–Field Level Media