Pretty Important Road Trip, Eh?
After a great home stand with three wins and a goal difference of 11-3, the Phoenix Coyotes are back in the race for the playoffs. The team has bounced back in great fashion after an abysmal run with seven straight losses. Coyotes have four wins and one shootout loss in its last five games, which puts them in 9th place in the Western Conference, three points behind the Detroit Red Wings (Coyotes have one game in hand over the Red Wings).
The Coyotes start a three-game Canadian road trip tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. The trip also includes games against Edmonton Oilers (Wednesday) and Calgary Flames (Friday). This road trip will be a good indication if the team will be in the battle of the 8th spot in the West until the end of the season.
Phoenix has a less than impressive 4-8-5 record on the road this season. The Coyotes away form needs to be drastically improved to keep hope alive for playoff hockey in the Valley at the end of the month, as seven out of the remaining 10 games for the Coyotes are on the road.
The team enters this road trip riding a season-high, three-game winning streak. With wins over the Los Angeles Kings (3-1), Detroit Red Wings (4-2) and Colorado Avalanche (4-0). With stellar performances by three goalkeepers, confidence must be high in the Coyotes’ camp. The key is to bring this momentum with them on the road and play like they do at home in Jobing.com Arena.
We saw spells in the games against the Kings and Red Wings when the Coyotes were dominating the boards and really going back to the mantra that they had last year, “hockey the hard way.” In the game against the Avalanche, it was a case of total domination by the Coyotes and goalie Mike Smith recorded his fifth shutout of the year with a 24-save performance. While Smith was out due to injury, Jason LaBarbera and Chad Johnson stepped up and played incredibly well.
One thing worth noting from the game against Detroit was that several players were on the ice even though they were sick. D-man David Schlemko left the ice twice to go hurl, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson threw up on the bench, but still managed to put up over 25 minutes in ice time. Coach Dave Tippett said at the press conference afterwards that it was the first time he had coached a game with two buckets on the bench.
Several players have been showing great form the last week, and are looking to Shane Doan, Mikkel Boedker and Keith Yandle to lead the team during this road trip. Yandle has been playing a lot better towards the end of the regular season, but he needs to start scoring more on the road. Add young superstar Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the mix along with a healthy Mike Smith in goal and the Coyotes have the pieces to make a serious push for that final playoff spot.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @SebNoren for in-game updates and analysis.