Let’s take a deep breath and talk about the situation. 0-4-1 for March. Even after this start to March, the Coyotes are still ahead in the standings than when they started their run in February. They started the run in 13th in the Western Conference. Currently in 7th place, they are only 3 points out of first in the Pacific, which would put them third overall. Home for the first round of the playoffs. One point ahead of San Jose. If you would have asked hockey pundits in October, they would not have predicted where the teams are located. Someone smart may have picked Dallas over Phoenix, but most picked this being the year San Jose makes the Stanley Cup.
Start with the positives.
- Radim Vrbata is poised to get back on his goal streak. We are playing at home, and it seems he likes to score on the road. He has contributed on most of Whitney’s goals and is getting his shots per game. They will go in.
- Ray Whitney is single handedly keeping the team in games. Whether his passing, regulation scoring, or OT shootout goals, he is a force.
- Daymond Langkow has turned back the clock and playing at the high level he did during his first tour in Phoenix.
- Mike Stone and Chris Summers have shown they belong in the NHL and have not been exposed as rookies.
- Rafi Torres has provided scoring and bone crushing hits. Against Minnesota, he drew three penalties alone. By being a major league grit and sandpaper player.
- Lauri Korpikoski showed his skill against Minnesota with his beautiful goal thanks to the Antoine Vermette feed. Afterwards, you could tell his confidence has elevated.
- Vermette has hit three posts, had a goal denied thanks to a bad call by the referee, and is still getting his scoring chances. He is finding his spot on the ice and Tippett is moving him on lines to find his place in the lineup.
- Paul Bissonnette has been in the line up for most games recently.
- The team has shown they can come back after falling behind early and by 2 goals. That is character and leadership keeping the team together, not letting them panic or the doubt creep in their minds.
Areas of concern that are easily fixable.
- Second line scoring has been limited to Rafi Torres and Lauri Korpikoski.
- Radim Vrbata has gone 7 games without a goal.
- Martin Hanzal went out last game with an injury that has him listed day to day. His presence and size will be missed against Joe Thorton and Mike Fisher if he is out for an extended period of time.
- The blue line continues to struggle with turning the puck over in the defensive zone and failing to clear the zone on power plays.
- The power play has been 30th in the league for 4 straight years. The cycle seems to break down after the entry pass or at the top of the key. Defensemen are not getting their shots in from the point and the opposition is feasting in short handed goals.
- The coaching staff has not had the team prepared for the first period in five straight games.
- Injuries to key players like David Schlemko, Rusty Klesla, Kyle Chipchura, Derek Morris on family/medical leave, and now Martin Hanzal has forced the call ups of young defensemen and now center Mark-Antoine Pouliot.
- Paul was given just over two minutes of ice time against Minnesota.
- Taylor Pyatt has gone almost a month since he found the back of the net.
- Tyson’s Jacket did not work it’s magic against Minnesota.
Most of those are fixable in one or two games. Something a couple of nice wins in regulation with a power play goal would provide. It takes no energy or courage to be a downer. It takes heart and believing in this team to be positive. If you think it is bad here, go to Montreal or Toronto. Birthplace of hockey, their national past time, and the players and fans are making tee time reservations. Or you could be an Islander fan. Worst arena in North America, owners and management who continue to make moves that defy logic. What do you think they would give for the Shepherd GMDM or Dave Tippett?
Get your tickets, put on your favorite Coyote jersey and hat, and go to the game. Show the new ownership group (whomever it may be) that the fan base is alive and well. We believe in the Coyotes. In Doan We Trust.