I apologize profusely for my complete lack of an update since last month - new job, family in town, illness - you name it, I've been dealing with it. Rather than recap every game since then (and Randy's been doing a great job of that), I figured we'd just hit the highlights as we get set for the stretch run.
Over the past month, the Coyotes have gone 7-4-2. They currently sit in 8th place in the Western Conference with 79 points, although with all the teams batched up, they are a mere five points behind San Jose for the top spot in the Pacific Division. The ownership mess, is still a mess and the sentiment expressed by Travis over at Five For Howling just about sums it up.
The Eight Game Winning Streak
The Coyotes were two games into the streak at our last update, but the Desert Dogs would reel off another six wins in a row, highlighted by a 3-2 OT win against the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers. Forward Mikkel Boedker saw his play take off during the streak while defenseman Keith Yandle led the charge with several multi-point games and generally excellent defensive play. Another high point was the team's 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Valentine's Day, a game that saw Ilya Bryzgalov make 29 saves, including six on Alexander Ovechkin by himself. At the end of the streak, the Coyotes were sitting high atop the Pacific Division and only a prolonged losing streak would return them to the Western quagmire.
The Five Game Losing Streak
One of the reasons the Coyotes have had such success this season is that they've avoided the prolonged losing streak (they have not recorded three consecutive regulation losses all season). Of course, after winning a season-high eight in a row, the Coyotes would attempt to eliminate that stat, losing 5 in a row, only gaining a single point in the middle game against the Blackhawks. To be fair, the Coyotes showed flashes of solid play throughout four of the five games with the exception of the 8-3 shellacking by the Lightning. Penalty trouble plagued the team during the stretch and their penalty kill was simply atrocious. A heartbreaking loss on a last second power play goal by Jamie Benn in the Dallas game certainly felt like the low point of the year for the Coyotes.
In a must-win game against Detroit last Saturday night, the Coyotes would fall into a 4-1 deficit after two periods, despite controlling the play for much of the first 40 minutes. With the naysayers growing louder and the Red Wings fans having a party in the seats of Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes orchestrated a tremendous third period comeback that saw them tie the game on a Martin Hanzal rebound goal with under two minutes to play. Radim Vrbata scored the lone shootout goal, and the Coyotes had completed the desert miracle and snapped their five-game losing skid.
Next the Coyotes took on the top team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks, without Hanzal, Ray Whitney and Derek Morris who were all sidelined with lower body injuries. Despite being severely shorthanded, the Coyotes would jump out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Shane Doan and Eric Belanger. After losing yet another defenseman when Rostislav Klesla was hit in the face with a puck, the Canucks would take a 3-2 lead. With time winding down in the second, a spectacular goal by Lauri Korpikoski tied the game and it would stay that way through regulation. Despite stopping a penalty shot in the overtime, Ilya Bryzgalov could not stop a shot from a wide open Dan Hamhuis and the Coyotes lost in overtime to the Canucks 4-3.
For an encore, the Coyotes played one of their most complete games of the entire season, shutting down a tired Calgary Flames team 3-0. The "Kid" line of Kyle Turris-Mikkel Boedker-Brett MacLean had a big night with MacLean scoring a beautiful goal on a tick-tack-toe play early in the second that would be the game winner. Additionally tallies by Belanger and Doan rounded out the scoring and Bryz had another big night making over 30 saves en route to the shut out.
On Sunday night in Anaheim, the Coyotes would be undeterred by Corey Perry's two-goal performance by receiving a two goal performance of their own from Korpikoski. The Coyotes pressured the Ducks all game and held strong defensively in front of another solid Bryz performance. Taylor Pyatt snapped a scoring drought converting on a Ducks turnover and Captain Shane Doan added another empty netter to his tally on the season. David Schlemko scored the other Coyotes goal as a power play expired.
In the week ahead, the Coyotes travel to Western Canada for a three game trip against Calgary on Tuesday, Edmonton on Thursday and Vancouver on Friday. Three important games and winning two of three will be crucial in the tightly packed West. On Sunday night, defending Stanley Cup champion and playoff hopeful Chicago returns to Jobing.com Arena for their second, and last, visit of the year.
For all your daily Coyotes news, be sure to check Five For Howling.