Today the Coyotes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 to execute the series sweep. The win gives them 73 points, which puts them atop the Pacific Division. Nashville is helping out the Coyotes by leading San Jose 4-2 right now in the third period.
When you think of where the Coyotes were at the All-Star break in Ottawa, there were many questions on what the future of the team would look like. Shepherd GMDM has stated that the team was considered moving UFAs (unrestricted free agents) Shane Doan and Ray Whitney. What changed his mind?
Wins. Since the February 4th game against San Jose Sharks, the Coyotes have scored 31 goals and given up 16 goals in a span of 11 games. They have allowed their opponent 1 goal in 6 games and have recorded 2 shutouts. The Coyotes have scored 6 power play goals and given up 5. As the Talking Heads ask, “How did I get here?” Let me help you with that.
- Who must be your best player on the penalty kill? The goalie. Who must be there to keep your team in tight games when you are not getting the puck luck? The goalie. And who must absorb those shots and not give up second and third scoring chances in front of the net? The goalie. Mike Smith has done an incredible job keeping the puck out of his net. He has been lights out on the shooutouts he has faced, overtime periods, and against top lines like those of Calgary, LA Kings, and Chicago.
- The defense in front of him need to be commended for their work at keeping shots to the outside and not letting rebounds be 2nd or 3rd scoring chances. This has been done with Derek Morris out with the flu and then a family emergency and Rusty Klesla out as well. David Schlemko is still out with his surgically repaired foot. Chris Summers and Mike Stone are playing limited minutes but not making rookie errors. Both are big and physical. Both know how to shoot the puck on the net. Both are hitting their first outlet pass and not dumping their problem onto the other. OEL is scoring. Keith has had some great defensive plays to go along with his offense. Today, he made a great block on Edmonton’s 2-1 break by sliding feet first, stopping the shot, and then clearing the puck. Old school double stack shin pads.
- Ray Whitney. Radim Vrbata. Martin Hanzal. The Prime Line. They are responsible for 7 out of the 10 game winning goals in February. Vrbata has 30 goals on the season, 19 on the road, 8 in February. He is +20 for the season. Ray has 2 goals in February and 14 assists for 57 points on the season and is a +24. Martin Hanzal, in addition to shutting down the top center of the opposition, has 3 goals in the month to go along with his 6 assists and is a +12. And he gets the top line and Penalty Kill time. Hanzal will get a push from Howlin’ Hockey for the Selke Trophy.
- Shane Doan. 20 goals for the 11th time in his career. 5 game winning goals. Stellar on the shootout. Fought Dustin Brown and administered a beatdown against the Kings after he ran Mike Smith. Pulled the team together and exerted some discipline after the last two games in which they let in 5 goals in the first period.
- Coaches Dave Tippett, Jim Playfair, and John Anderson. They have kept the lockerroom together, put together a game plan that plays to our strengths, and hasn’t let injuries to key players like those listed above and role players Kyle Chipchura, Taylor Pyatt, and Gilbert Brule. And they gave ice time to Paul Bissonnette.
What do we as fans need to do in return? Show up at the games. Sell out Jobing.com. Make it loud and let the players feed on our energy. Every one of the players said they notice when the building is electric and the Let’s Go Coyotes chant rains down from the rafters.
We are 1st in the Pacific and 3rd in the West. Now is not the time to let off the gas. Build the lead over San Jose. Watch them rebuild in the offseason.