Updated Feb 6, 2013 - 4:21 pm
Phoenix Coyotes had to re-learn how to win games
"Hockey the Hard Way."
A solid marketing ploy, sure, but it was also how the team won games. Gritty defense combined with excellent goaltending and just enough offense to reach the Western Conference Finals.
The Coyotes were expected to be good once again this season, and some even felt they could even benefit some from the lockout, as their style may have been conducive to shaking the rust off more quickly and get back to playing at a high level.
Except, that wasn't the case.
The Coyotes lost five of their first seven games before dropping a road tilt with the Dallas Stars in a shootout.
Phoenix has not lost since.
"We're playing a little better," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo Wednesday. "We're protecting our goalies a little better and our team game has just, we got away from playing summer hockey where we thought it would be all fun and games to now we play hard.
"And that's the difference in the game. If you're willing to compete hard you'll find some wins."
That makes sense.
The Coyotes, for as good as they've been the last few years, are still not a squad that will overwhelm anyone with talent. That's not to say they don't have any, but it became apparent last year that there was a certain recipe the team needed to follow for success, and it just wasn't following it early in the season.
The Coyotes had allowed 21 goals in their first five losses, and though many would point the finger at goalies Mike Smith and Jason Labarbera, Tippett seemed to say the defense in front of the net wasn't particularly good and had to change.
"When you start it takes a few days to start sinking in," Tippett said of what led to the slow start. "I think the one factor, we put that young Johnson kid in net and I think that got peoples' attention that 'we better protect this guy.'
"The kid came in, he played well in net, but we played very well in front of him."
Tippett is referring to Chad Johnson, who was called up from the AHL and started between the pipes against the Nashville Predators, who he shutout, and the Edmonton Oilers, who got a 2-1 win in overtime.
Tippett said having success playing that way helps the players realize what they need to do in order to win games, and if consecutive victories over the Stars and Wild are any indication, it seems as though the message has finally sunk in.
Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com
- Coyotes GM on goaltender Mike Smith: 'I do believe he puts too much pressure on himself'
- Phoenix Coyotes roll past last-place Edmonton Oilers
- Phoenix Coyotes to honor members of 1980 USA hockey team
- Kane leads Blackhawks past Coyotes 5-2
- Report: Phoenix Coyotes sign forward Gilbert Brule to 1-year deal
- Don Maloney, Phoenix Coyotes GM - Wednesday December 4How were the Coyotes able to get back on track? Can they build off of this win?
- Shane Doan, Coyotes captain - Tuesday November 26Shane Doan talks about the Coyotes loss to Nashville Monday night.
- Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes Coach - Tuesday November 26Dave Tippett talks about the Coyotes loss to Nashville Tuesday night.
- Barry Melrose, ESPN NHL analyst - Thursday November 21Barry Melrose says Mike Smith is the most exciting goalie in the NHL.
- Shane Doan, Coyotes Captain - Wednesday November 20Shane Doan talks about his hot offensive start.