The Five-Point Inspection: Phoenix Coyotes

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Nov 12, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) is congratulated after scoring the winning goal against the St. Louis Blues during overtime at the Scottrade Center. The Coyotes defeated the Blues 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: 7/10

The Coyotes’ offense is one that hasn’t undergone any big change in the last several years, but has improved significantly since then. The sheer experience of a playoff run has brought hordes of confidence to the players, and with that, newer, loftier goals. Mikkel Boedker have become a key cog in the Coyotes’ lineup, becoming one of the fastest players in the league. The acquisition of set-up man Mike Ribero has paid off, as the 33-year old has 13 points in the season so far. Players like Kyle Chipchura, Rob Klinkhammer, and Lauri Korpikoski are steadily improving, and young talent like Jordan Szwartz and Chris Brown fill the remaining spots. No matter who is on the roster, a Coyotes team is one that never quits battling, and can put the puck in the next when everyone least expects it. With a full season of playing together ahead of them, the Coyotes’ offense looks to be one that is flying high in March, and hopefully later.

Defense: 8/10

The Coyotes’ dont sport any superstars on the blue-line, but consistency throughout the lineup is the team’s strong suit. Physical play is something to be expected when the Coyotes step on the ice, and a mis-step by any opposing forward on the rush can almost guarantee a big hit. The defense plays very well in their own zone, with players like Derek Morris and Zybenek Michalek stepping up on the penalty-kill, and when the offense can’t seem to keep the puck in the other end. Although the Coyotes’ defense was traditionally an own-zone group, players such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle have shown their offensive touch, and possess heavy shots from the blue-line, along with quick feet to help the team start the rush from the defensive zone. Depth pieces Michael Stone and David Rundblad close out the group, gaining precious experience from the leaders of the group. Paired with a good goaltending tandem, the Coyotes’ defense is one that consistently delivers, and can come up big when the team needs them most.

Leadership: 8/10

The Coyotes are blessed to have captain Shane Doan on the team, after all the seasons in the desert. Doan, originally drafted when the Coyotes were still the Winnipeg Jets, shows experience beyond most of his counterparts, and can still bring big performances to the ice. Doan is an all-around leader, and has been doing anything his team needs to get a win for almost 10 sesaons now. Doan brings a physical, gutsy game, and has no problem defending himself and his team. Behind him is a well-rounded group of assistants, including Keith Yandle and Martin Handzal. Both players bring a youthful game to the rink every night, and their several years of experience has netted them the leadership qualities necessary to lead a team with many young players. All three of these players contribute on the scoresheet nightly, and along with goalie Mike Smith, the Coyotes’ have a great group of voices in the dressing room.

Summary

The Coyotes’ have taken the biggest step, and introduced themselves to the playoff atmosphere, going all the way to the Western Conference Final in 2012. With a group that has remained largely unchanged since then, the Coyotes’ chemistry and team play is their best asset. With a great goaltender in net, and one of the league’s best coaches behind the bench, the Coyotes’ can be expected to hold their own against some of the West’s biggest teams each night. Room in the salary cap indicates there is still some growth to be done, and Phoenix’s underrated management can easily improve the team with one or two transactions. With consistent play, the ‘Yotes can find themselves back in the post-season in 2014, prepared to bring excitement back to the desert, where a second chance was given just a few short months ago.

 

You can watch tonight’s Blackhawks/Coyotes game on CSN, or listen on WGN Radio 720. Puck drop at the United Center will be at 7 PM Central Time.

 

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