How Have The Phoenix Coyotes Turned Into the NHL's Hottest Team?

With their seventh consecutive win, against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Phoenix Coyotes have tied the NHL's longest winning streak in the 2010-11 season, with the St. Louis Blues having taken seven in a row, as well. The streaking Coyotes have found themselves atop the Pacific Division, trailing just the Detroit Red Wings for first in the Western Conference. While a slow start may have indicated a decline from last year's Cinderella run, the Coyotes are beginning to look more like the team of last season, thanks to a few small changes.
Last year, the Coyotes made a living winning the close games. They won 14 games in shootouts and dropped just seven contests that ended beyond regulation play. In their slow start, the Yotes were struggling to win these close ones, dropping their first five games in the extra frame.

During this streak, the Coyotes have decided to avoid the overtime period altogether and win these close games. Five of Phoenix's seven wins during the streak have come by just one goal. The only exceptions were a 3-1 victory in Calgary against the Flames, and Tuesday's 5-0 romp of the Edmonton Oilers.

Anyone who has watched a Coyotes game in the last few years has seen the futility of the power play. After starting off the season hovering around an abysmal 12 percent with the man advantage, the Coyotes have completely turned it around, bringing it up to the 20 percent range in their last nine games, and bringing their overall percentage up to 17.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to have success if you're not solid between the pipes. Despite posting just one shutout, after eight last season, Ilya Bryzgalov has been as steady as they come, winning nine games and flashing a 2.76 goals against average. He's also scorched through the month of November, not having lost a game in regulation.

When the Arizona Diamondbacks were still contenders -- what seems like centuries ago -- they adopted the "Anybody, Anytime" mantra. The Coyotes have seen quite a bit of that this season. Despite the fact that four players have celebrated hat tricks this season, no player on the team has more than seven goals.

The Yotes have also flashed the depth this season, including Tuesday's 5-0 win against Edmonton. With Ed Jovanovski and Adrian Aucoin scratched for the game, youngsters David Schlemko and Oliver Ekman-Larsson stepped in and combined for three assists, with both finishing with plus ratings.

Sure, the Coyotes still have improvements to be made -- notably to their penalty kill -- but last year showed that this is a team that can give anyone a run for their money. Last year's run may have hardened this young group and primed them for a run deeper into the summer.

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