The Coyotes continued their surprisingly strong season with back to back road victories over the inconsistent Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night, 6-3, and the fading Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night 2-1 in the shootout. The Coyotes being a defense first team showed it could produce offensive numbers, albeit against the struggling Maple Leafs goaltending, then went right back to thier defensive ways in Columbus.
Coming off a hard, slightly embarassing loss to the Detroit Red Wings Monday night, where number one goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov allowed three goals for the first time in 8 games (two goals being Snuggle the Bear soft), the Coyotes looked to continue thier shocking winning streak into the Air Canada Center in downtown Toronto.
Two Coyotes players were playing in their hometown and in front of family and friends, those two being Paul Bissonette and Daniel Winnik, who are two thirds of the Coyotes fourth line grind line. This was the first time the Bison's dad had ever seen him play in an NHL game, so this was a very special night for him off the start. You could clearly see that the Coyotes enforcer was very excited and actually seemed quite giddy during his interview with Todd Walsh during the warm up.
The excitement would continue on for the Bison as he was able to deflect a Keith Yandle shot in for the Coyotes fourth goal, which proved to be the game winner. Needless to say Bison's dad got a pretty good show of his son for his first time seeing him play. Daniel Winnik also got an assist on the goal, which would be his second of the night. The hometown boys showed thier parents that all that time and money during their youth has truly paid off now.
Keith Yandle continues to make me eat my words as he showed that he is fully ready to become a number one defenseman in this league tallying up three assists against Toronto and getting the lone regulation goal in Columbus. I have only started to come around to Yandle this season, and it was when Ed Jovanovski went down with injury and Yandle stepped into Jovo's role. He stopped making poor defensive plays when more responsibility was placed on his shoulders when he was playing over 20 minutes in every game Jovo was hurt for. The last two season's he was difficult to watch as he would have his bright spots evey now and then, but made too many Pee Wee mistakes for my liking,c ausing me to think the Coyotes may have brought him up to soon.
I can say with no struggle in my thoughts now that Keith Yandle is the real deal. He provides strength in the defensive end being able to push players around and get them out of the net and adds a very unique offensive flare to his game that helps the Coyotes out, especially on the power play. He reminds me of the young Ed Jovnovski, the one the was pre-Coyotes era, who could lay a huge hit on anyone crossing the blue line and added some offense to the game as well. Even Jovo is starting to show more of that pre-Coyotes era Ed Jovanovski in him this year, which is a great thing seeing how thats what we signed him to do.
Petr Prucha was the player who got the Coyotes goal scoring off to a start in Toronto with his first two goal game in almost two years. Its a nice reward for a player who truly does work his arse off night in and night out for the team. He is trying to regain his scoring touch from his rookie year with the Rangers that saw him pot 30 goals, but it is hard to make achieve that when he had scored only 2 goals in 24 games prior to the game in Toronto. Playing on the “Czech”-ing line with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata, his goals will come, he just needs to be patient and the bounces will bounce his way.
Scotty Upshall became the second Coyotes player who reached the double digit mark for goals with his tenth snipe against the Leafs, the first player being Vrbata who achieved his tenth in the previous game against Detroit, and continues to make Paul Holmgren regret trading him AND a second round pick for one Daniel Carcillo.
The Coyotes then over-nighted themselves to Columbus,OH to take on the Blue Jackets which saw the Coyotes switch back to a defense first style game and allowed Jason Labarbera to prove that he is one of the best, if not the best, back up goaltender in the league, allowing one goal, that being against Rick Nash on the power play. Labarbera made 38 saves and along with the solid Coyotes defense, was the reason the team was able to get to the shootout where both Shane Doan and Robert Lang scored to help the Coyotes take the victory for thier first back to back wins since the end of October.
This Coyotes team is playing like the real deal, but the true test will be the second half of the season, because if you remember last year the Coyotes were as high up as 5th place in the Western Conference at the All-Star break before plummeting to 12th to finish the season. Alot of that had to do with a very young roster that was not use to the long NHL schedule, and now the team consists of many more experienced players, so hopefully that will allow the team to continue the strong play through the entire season.
The Coyotes next game is Saturday afternoon in Anaheim, who the Coyotes are 2-1 against so far this season. Expect the “Czech”-ing line of Martin Hanzal, Petr Prucha, and Radim Vrbata on the ice for the majority of Ryan Getzlaf and Corry Perry's ice time as Hanzal has always been a thorn in that lines side since he has taken over the role as the Coyotes shut down player.
It is unknown if Peter Mueller will be dressed for the game against the Ducks, as he was a healthy scratch for the back to back games this week. Hopefully, if he does play he, this can wake him up and he can finally snap out of his funk and return to his rookie season ways, although his previous times being scratched has not done much help.
And finally, A big Congratulations to Captain Coyote Shane Doan, who played in his 1,000 NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, all of them being for the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise. Hopefully this team can take Doaner to a Cup before the later years of his career so we dont have to see him wear any other jersey but a Phoenix Coyotes one for the rest of his career. Doan really does care about his Coyotes and is a terrific leader on and off the ice, and I personally would love to see him play his entire career as a Coyote and help them prove the doubters wrong by taking them to a Stanley Cup champioship.
About the Author
Written by Matt Shott
22 year old hockey fan born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Weird, huh? Entire family minus myself and my brother were born in Toronto, ON so thats how I became a fan of this great sport. I have worked at Ice rinks since I was 14 and spend all day reading hockey stories. I eat, sleep, coach, play, and basically LIVE hockey. I became a Red Wing fan thanks to EA Sports NHL '95 and haven't looked back since (Why would I?). Parents were Season Ticket holders for the Phoenix Coyotes since day 1 and when they moved to Portland 3 years ago, I picked up where they left off and have found a soft spot for them. I moved to Toronto in January '10 to attend Centennial College's Sports Journalism program, so I am becoming a Maple Leafs fan in the process. Its hard to do after 16 years of being a Red Wings fan. So to recap: Wings fan at heart, Leafs fan on the outside, and always carry a soft spot for the Coyotes.