Just a few weeks back, things weren’t looking for the good for the Coyotes. They were struggling getting out of the gates from the All-Star break and were falling fast in the Western Conference standings. A few weeks later, Phoenix has won seven straight and currently stand at the top of the Pacific Division standings and third overall in the West. There have been several factors for their recent resurgence.
The Coyotes have found a pretty simple and very familiar solution to help turn things around. They returned to the things that made them so successful last season; great defense, great goaltending out of Ilya Bryzgalov and some very timely goal scoring.
The improved defensive effort has lessened the load on Bryzgalov. For a stretch when Phoenix was struggling, it seemed as though the Russian goaltender was facing 30+ shots every night. That hasn’t been the case for the most part during the win streak. The defense has also cut down on the opposing team’s scoring chances and time in their offensive zone.
All of this has come despite several injuries to the blue line. Ed Jovanovski missed last night’s win and is expected to miss the next several weeks after having surgery to fix an orbital bone fracture. Adrian Aucoin has been banged up as well and newcomer Michal Rozsival has been in and out of the lineup since joining Phoenix. The young defensemen have done a really nice job stepping up with the veterans out and they will have to continue to do so if the Yotes want to keep this streak alive.
When Bryzgalov has had to face shots, he has been outstanding. Over the seven-game streak, Bryz has allowed only 11 goals over that stretch, including back-to-back shutouts over Minnesota and Colorado to start the streak. For those counting at home, that is a 1.57 GAA for the goaltender over the seven-game stretch. This team will go as far as the goaltender takes them and if he continues to play this well, Phoenix can make a deep run in the playoffs. He will need some rest at some point though to keep him fresh. Bryzgalov has started every game since Jan. 10.
Whenever you win seven straight games in the NHL with six of the seven being one-goal games, you have to have a little luck and have to have some timely goal scoring. The Coyotes have had both of those things over this stretch. They have gotten a few breaks with some calls, something that all good teams take advantage and Phoenix has certainly done that.
The Coyotes always seem to be quick to respond when the opposing team scores on them. They have also done a great job of bumping up leads and look to last night’s game in Nashville as an example. After a Keith Yandle goal not even four minutes into the game, Taylor Pyatt would score nearly a minute later to give Phoenix an early two-goal advantage. That is always huge whenever you are on the road.
Now there is still plenty of hockey left to be played, basically a fourth of the season, but it is very exciting to see how well this Coyotes team is playing at the moment. The same things that have helped them put together this win streak will have to continue happening if they want to continue where they are at in the standings, especially in these next four tough road games.