Saturday, 19 February 2011

Home-Stand Success for Desert Dogs

Bryzgalov, Doan and Jovo celebrate a win
The Phoenix Coyotes' recent home stand has been a massive positive for two reasons. First of all, the Coyotes have gotten back to winning ways, playing the same gritty defensive game that served them so well last season. Secondly, they have started to make the Arena a hard place to go. While their home record is still not great, the last few games have started to push it in the right direction.

The Coyotes have played six of their last seven games at home and have won six in a row since receiving that 6-0 battering from Vancouver on the 2nd of February. That game seems to have given the Coyotes a well needed kick up the backside as they have been excellent since. Phoenix have beaten the likes of the Stars (in Dallas), the Blackhawks and the Capitals during their six game streak and have looked very strong defensively in all of those games.

The home stand has not been without its problems however. It looks like veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski is going to be out for a significant amount of time after fracturing his orbital bone in a head collision at the end of the second period against the Thrashers on Thursday night. The Phoenix blueline will miss Jovo's leadership skills and his presence on the ice for sure, however, this may be a chance for some of the younger defensemen to show what they can do as they will undoubtedly get more ice-time in the wake of the injury.

Next up for the Coyotes is a ten-day, five-game road trip that looks very, very difficult on paper. While there are plenty of games left in the season, these five games could be crucial to the Coyotes' hopes of making the playoffs. These games will also be a good test for this team, allowing the fans and players a chance to see where the Coyotes rank amongst some of the more elite teams of the NHL.

The first game is against the Nashville Predators who are very similar to the Coyotes in the way they play. I am predicting a low scoring game there. Next up will be the Flyers and then the Lightning, the two best teams of the Eastern conference. The last two games, against the Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks respectively will be a chance for the Coyotes to take more points off their Western Conference rivals.

The keys to a successful road trip will be:

  • Ilya Bryzgalov staying hot between the pipes. Bryz has been the biggest reason behind the Coyotes' recent success.
  • Big defensive effort. The Coyotes have simplified their game and gone back to what makes them a successful team. By reducing the scoring chances against, they give themselves a better chance of winning.
  • Jovo's replacement stepping up. With such a big player out, whoever it is that steps into his place must have an excellent five games.
  • Team scoring. With no true goalscorer, the Coyotes rely on all their forwards to pitch in with goals and assists. This needs to continue.

First game of the road-trip is on Saturday. The puck drops at 8:00pm CST.

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