Before we get started on the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 shootout victory against the Dallas Stars and everything that came along with it, I would like to take a journey down memory lane to an article I wrote on January 23rd of this year.
The article discussed a recent home stand that put the Coyotes 13 points behind the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division and I noted that it isn’t out of the realm of reality for the Coyotes to catch the Sharks.
Fast forward to March 21, 2010 and my “pipe dream”, as I referred to it, has become “reality” as the Phoenix Coyotes have taken their spot atop their division by defeating the Dallas Stars in the shootout Sunday night.
Re-read that last sentence again if you still don’t believe it, the Phoenix Coyotes, the team currently owned by the league, who was almost moved to Hamilton this summer, that has had attendance issues all season, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002 when they played at the US Airways Center wearing those hideous jerseys, are first place in the Pacific Division.
Go ahead and rain on my parade and say it may only be for one night and they could very well be dethroned by the Sharks during their next game, but right now this team is where NOBODY expected them to even get a whiff of at the beginning of the year, leading the Pacific Division.
But wait, it gets better. Not only is Phoenix first place in the Pacific Division (You know what, I have said that a lot tonight, but I don’t care because it sounds amazing), but as of today they are also tied for first place in the Western Conference.
Sure the Blackhawks have played two less games, but its pretty amazing nonetheless.
The win tonight was also the team’s ninth straight victory, but you know no big deal when you think about where in the standings this winning streak has put the team.
Now for the minor problem fans of other teams might not be too happy about, and that is the amount of shootout victories for the Coyotes. During the teams nine game win streak, five have been shootout victories.
That could pose a problem for the team come playoff time as they will not have that luxury since overtime consists of 20 minute periods until someone scores instead.
The game against Dallas on Sunday night saw the Coyotes get a number of scoring opportunities during overtime and the team was much more aggressive during the extra period then it was the rest of the game.
Unfortunately, with the period only being five minutes long it makes their effort look minuscule, so hopefully when they have twenty minutes of extra play in the postseason, they will be able to capitalize on their opportunities.
And if all else fails in the overtime, just send out “The Closer” Adrian Aucoin to rip a shot from the slot and the game will be over. Aucoin scored his fifth game-winning shootout goal for the Coyotes on Sunday to beat the Stars. He is 5-for-5 on the season.
Radim Vrbata has also quietly been scoring at a solid pace as he again scored a goal in regulation as well as in the shootout, just as he did against Florida on Thursday, and added an assist. He currently leads the team with 23 goals, not bad for a player who was not in the league for most of last season.
Petr Prucha scored the other Coyotes goal in regulation when he tipped in Vrbata’s pass from the end boards with just under a second remaining in the first period.
Jason Labarbera did a nice job filling in for Ilya Bryzgalov stopping 30 shots put his way including a diving save at the end of the third period to help keep the game tied at two.
The Coyotes will get a chance to take full control of the Western Conference when they take on the Blackhawks on Tuesday in Chicago. Who would have thought even two weeks ago that the top spot in the West would be up for grabs during a game between the Hawks and the Coyotes?
If the Coyotes win it will also give them the season sweep of the Blackhawks after going 0-4 last season against them.
Win again and make it TEN!!! Go Yotes Go!!!
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.