The Phoenix Coyotes beat the Eastern Conference leading New Jersey Devils Thursday night. The win got them two points that were badly needed after only one win in their past five contests, moving them to fifth place in the West.
Zbynek Michalek scored the eventual game winner on the power play after Mark Fraser caught Daniel Winnik in the face with his stick during the scoring of the Coyotes third goal. Despite mustering only 19 shots, The Coyotes showed no fear towards perennial Vezina trophy candidate and multiple record holer, Martin Brodeur.
Ilya Bryzgalov continued his outstanding season with another 30-plus save, 31 saves to be exact, effort as he tries to keep his name in the minds of the MVP voters. Without solid goaltending this season the Coyotes may not be in the same position they are in now, no matter what kind of system coach Dave Tippett implements.
Peter Mueller scored his third goal of the year and now has two in his past three games after a 22 game goal scoring drought. Mueller is having an incredibly rough year, which follows a below par season last year after he set the bar of hopes high during his stellar rookie campaign.
Coyote fans need to be patient with Mueller and not expect so much from him so early in his career, remember he is only 21 years old. Most players dont really hit their peak years until they are 24 or older, the problem is that after having such a good rookie season, fans start to expect more from him.
He is still learning and can still be a go to goal scorer in the future, so the best thing to do is wait until he turns 25 before we fans start to become too critical. After that, if he still hasn't performed to expectations, then is free game to criticize.
Another startling stat is that captain Shane Doan has only two points, both being goals, in his last seven games, both of which came in the same game. He is supposed to be the Coyotes top point producer and lately he has not done that, and that needs to change if the Coyotes want to continue battling for a playoff spot.
I am not saying his effort isn't there, because he is by far one of the hardest working players in the league, but he has to find a way to get points on the board and lead this team, not just on the ice, but on the score sheet as well. His sub-par season clearly cost him his spot on Team Canada for the Olympics as most analysts saw him as a lock for a shut-down position on the team.
It is imperative the Coyotes keep this momentum going after the win against the Devils and use this as a recharging of their battery. Beating the best team in the conference is something that can be very uplifting and can bring back confidence that may have been lost after such a poor start to the new year.
The Coyotes need to take that confidence gained from the victory into the tough games that are ahead of them as they end their six game home-stand against the suddenly hot Minnesota Wild, who the Coyotes always seem to have trouble against, the Buffalo Ryan Millers Sabres, the team that gave the Coyotes their first loss of the season, and the Nashville Predators, who is the team just ahead of the Coyotes in the Western Conference playoff race.
Each one of the next three games are crucial games and the Coyotes need to find a way to get points in all of them if they want to finally establish themselves as a competitive team. Losses in each game will surely spell trouble in the teams attempt to make the post season dance for the first time in eight years.
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.