The Arizona Coyotes went into this opening game of the 2016-17 season with five rookies on the 23 man roster. Unfortunately, that means three players must be scratched from the lineup, besides the injured players.
It was released yesterday, that Head Coach/V.P. of Hockey Operations Dave Tippett announced that Dylan Strome will more than likely be one of them. Zbynek Michalek who was cleared after being placed on waivers, and injured Jamie McGinn were the other two.
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Perhaps it's just a numbers game where there are too many players and not enough spots in the lineup. Strome had a decent pre-season, with two goals and two assists, but seems like the coaching staff wants to see more from him.
He's not going to get the chance to equal or excel (ok, that's pushing it) Auston Matthews debut in his initial NHL game when he scored four goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It looks like Christian Dvorak right now is the man, and it's logical to assume that all the rookies will get their chance to shine on the ice.
Opening night extravaganza
The pre-game ceremony was very entertaining with a laser light show, some awesome music and a standing room only crowd to cheer it on.
The player introductions were highlighted by smoke and lights, very well done. After all the pomp and circumstance the game was set to start.
First period facts
The Coyotes came out very energetic and ready. The Flyers, on the other hand were disorganized and were called twice for too many men on the ice.
The Coyotes power play failed both times, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson getting called for a minor, defusing the second man advantage. The chances were there for the hometown team as Martin Hanzal just missed a tip in chance near the right post. Radim Vrbata was also unable to sneak a shot past Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
Then, in the third power play of the period, Shane Doan powered a backhand in with helpers from Alex Goligoski and Christian Dvorak. It was Goligoski's first point as a Coyote, and Dvorak's first NHL point as Arizona led 1-0.
Philadelphia got back into the game with a deflection goal by Michael Raffl, with assists going to Nick Schultz and Brandon Manning.
The Coyotes surge continued when Max Domi found Jakob Chychurn breaking down center ice and fed him a perfect pass. Chychurn put it in overdrive as he sped in on Mason. His shot went wide, but he followed the shot and circled the net, placing a wrap-around effort in the crease, where Hanzal put in the rebound through the the five hole. Arizona took the lead for the second time in the period, going up 2-1.
The period wound down when at 19:17, it was the Arizona Coyotes turn to get called for too many men on the ice. They started the second stanza short-handed.
Second period action
The penalty kill for the Desert Dogs turned into a short handed goal at :17, when Brad Richardson received a great lead pass from Jordan Martinook, and scored by using a bullet of a wrist shot past Steve Mason.
Arizona took a 3-1 lead.
Their fourth power play came about when Flyers' Mark Streit was called for tripping. Philadelphia killed that penalty. The Flyers cut the two goal deficit by one by scoring a goal by nemesis Wayne Simmonds assisted by Claude Giroux. It was both Flyers' players first points of the new season.
Mike Smith made a dramatic save at 16:27 when prospect Travis Konecny sent a wrist shot which Smith gloved to keep the lead in tact.
Arizona led after two periods 3-2.
Third period drama
The visiting Flyers pressured until they managed a power play goal at 4:36 to knot the score at three. Rookie defenseman Chychurn got beat when the Flyers' Matt Read slipped by him and scored on a nifty backhand shot Smith couldn't handle.
Arizona 3, Philadelphia 3.
Flyers' bad boy Simmons was called for elbowing Ekman-Larsson at 11:42, but the Coyotes failed again with the extra attacker.
Then at 15:16 Vrbata was called for tripping on a controversial call, allowing the visiting Flyers a power play. The Coyotes were able to hold off the Flyers power play once again.
The rest of the period had scoring chances by both teams, but the end of regulation saw the tight game deadlocked at three apiece. The Coyotes outshot the Flyers 33-25 over three periods of play.
The Flyers completely dominated play until the 3:12 mark when Ekman-Larsson scored the game winner from his favorite left face-off circle spot. The Flyers had a delayed penalty called on them, and Smith rushed to the bench for an extra attacker.
Coyotes' goalie Smith made a big save during the surge that Philadelphia put on, and that as it turned out, it was a game saver.
Coach Tippett's press conference
When asked about losing the 3-1 lead, Coach Dave Tippett commented:
"We're going to get a lot of ups and downs like that, it's going to be fun." He also quipped with close games like this, his hair was going to get grayer.
He commented that "there was some good, some bad, we've certainly gotta do better, but for the most part we competed, and Smitty was real solid and made a huge save in overtime and we were able to get the win."
Commenting on Jakob Chychrun's first NHL game where he made a great play assisting on a goal and then was victimized on a Flyer goal, Tippett said, "it was a whirlwind night for him, it was like a kaleidoscope, each picture he got was different."
One of the positive signs Tippett liked was the play of Richardson, who scored a goal, and Martinook who was excellent on the penalty kill.
He was glad to get two points, and now they go on a tough six game road trip. Tippett thinks this road trip will be "a good test for our team with as many young players, and many new players, it's going to be a good test for us. You know, we're going to go into some buildings where we're not going to have time to be young and inexperienced, we're going to have to dig right in, so it'll throw guys to the fire a little bit, but we'll see how they react."