The Coyotes ended their six game home stand with an important win against the Nashville Predators as well as a win last Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild. And, oh yeah they had a bit of an “off game” against the Buffalo Sabres to celebrate Martin Luther Kings Day on Monday.
Overall the Coyotes went 3-2-1 and were able to keep their spot at fourth place in the tough western Conference during their longest stretch of home games this season.
The 4-2 win against the Predators was the key victory in the home stand as Scottie Upshall single handedly defeated the Preds in the third period by recording his first hat trick of his career, more impressively making it a natty hatty (natural hat trick for you beginners out there).
OK sure, Upshall didn't single handedly beat the Preds, but he was the main factor in their victory that night and Captain Shane Doan added three assists in the victory as well. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was also key in the game stopping 41 shots thrown his way, continuing to prove his importance to the team this season.
The Coyotes were down a goal going into the third period but came out of the gates strong getting two goals in just over a minutes time to seal the deal against the foes from Nashville. Matthew Lombardi also got in on the action by potting the first goal and contributing an assist on Upshall's game winning goal.
The Coyotes also played host to the Sabres on Monday and boy oh boy did they decide to stay home that game. Ilya Bryzgalov was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 13 shots. Though, back-up Jason Labarbera was not any better as he allowed the othe four goals after facing 18 shots.
Goaltending is hardly to blame due to how good Buffalo has played this year. Goaltender Ryan Miller is definitely a big reason for their success, but they have a very good and very young team that can easily be competitive for years to come. Obviously Miller outdueled his competition for the Vezina this year as Bryzgalov just did not play up to his normal ability.
Sure the game was against an Eastern Conference team that doesnt affect the Coyotes rise or fall in the standings, but the team cannot have games like this anymore if they want to be considered a playoff team. They need to be the team that gives these beatings to their opposition and scare other teams when they come and step into the desert.
This Sabres victory makes the second annual Buffalo/Phoenix MLK Jamboree Extravaganza On Ice In the Desert, or “B.P.M.L.K.J.E.O.I” for short, an even split so far as the Coyotes won the last MLK match-up against the Sabres 6-2 in the 07-08 season. The win also gave the Sabres the sweep of the season series this year as they were the team that gave the Coyotes their first loss earlier in October
The Coyotes also played host to the Minnesota Wild on the 16th of January and continued their dominance over the Wild after struggling for years against the team from the North Star State.
The game also marked the return of Ed Jovanovski after he was suspended for two games due to an elbow to the face of Gary Bettman love-child number two, John Tavares. The hit definitely deserved a penalty, but suspending him for two games was not necessary in the least bit. Regardless, its not important, its in the past, and Jovo came up big for the team in his return getting 4 assists during the teams 6-4 win.
Peter Prucha scored two goals in the victory and Guillaume Latendresse of the Wild scored his first hat trick of his career.
The Coyotes had to have been holding their breathe as they went up 5-1 midway through the third and saw the Wild claw back to cut the lead to 5-4 with just over five minutes left. But fortunately the team battled hard and Radim Vrbata added his 15th of the season with a minute to go in the game to lock up the “W”.
Sure 3-2-1 isn't the greatest record when hosting six teams in a row, but the team stayed above .500 and were able to grab seven points as they watched other Western Conference teams slip down the standings during this streak of games. That's all that is important right now, and though it seems unlikely, the Coyotes are only a mere 13 points behind the Pacific division leading San Jose Sharks.
13 points may sound like a lot, but a three game skid for the Sharks and a three game winning streak for the Coyotes put them only 7 points back, and that is very reach-able. It may be a pipe dream and the main focus should be keeping up the pace and just attempting to make the playoffs, but a mentor once told me that you need to reach for the stars, because if you don't get the stars, you can always end up grabbing the moon. If you only reach for the moon, you run the risk of not catching anything at all.
So reach for the stars Coyotes, reach for that impractical dream of topping the Sharks in the Pacific division, because if you dont succeed and only end up making the playoffs, at least you accomplished something.
The Coyotes play the other division leading team in the East, this one being the top team in the East point-wise, Washington Capitals Saturday night. Last year the Coyotes were able to defeat the strong club from the nations capital 2-1 last year and held Alex Ovechkin pointless. Lets see if the team can spark that magic again tonight. Go Coyotes!!
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.