The NHL season is at its halfway mark and the Coyotes are finding themselves in the middle of very heavily contested Western Conference playoff race. This season the Coyotes have gone through some highs and lows in the first half, however they have managed to forge through and are still contention for the playoffs. This is important because they are lacking a few key components of their success last season.
They have not had the kind of success in overtime that they had last season, not that anyone expected them to, but this season has been a complete 180 to last year with overtime almost assuring a Coyotes loss, as they have only two overtime/shootout wins this season compared to nine losses. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has also been dealing with nagging injuries and illness this season that has limited his production somewhat. The Coyotes have also struggled to find their offensive touch at times with some of the players falling well short of expectations.
There have been bright spots in the season. Captian Shane Doan, after a slow start due to injury and suspension, has been on fire the past six weeks with at least a point in 8 of the past 10 games. Keith Yandle is 6th among NHL defensemen in points and first round pick Oliver Ekman-Larsson will represent the team in the rookie skills competition at the NHL All Star game. Things are picking up of late for the Desert Dogs in the standings as well. The Coyotes have points in seven of their last eight games and haven’t had a regulation loss in 2011.
They welcome another hot team and NHL royalty to Jobing.com arena tonight with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town. Leafs nation will no doubt be in full force as the surging Leafs attempt to complete and undefeated four game road trip and win five in a row. With two teams playing some of their best hockey of the season and a rare appearance from an eastern original six team, it is sure to be a great atmosphere in Glendale.