The Phoenix Coyotes embraced the motto “hockey the hard way” last season en route to the franchise’s first appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
Two games into their lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, the Coyotes have made hockey hard for themselves, and it has nothing to do with a gritty, hard-nosed style of play.
In fact if anything, during two losses to the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks over the weekend, Phoenix rarely resembled a Dave Tippett-coached hockey team.
So heading into Wednesday night’s home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Coyotes are trying to embrace a new philosophy: keep things simple.
“Until things loosen up for us, we have to keep things real, real simple,” defenseman Derek Morris. “We have to go back and try to win 2-1 or 1-0, help Mike Smith out, battle pucks out, play a simple game and see where it goes.”
The Coyotes were ranked No. 5 in the league in goals allowed in 2011-12, but so far this season they find themselves at the other end of the spectrum having already surrendered 10 goals.
While the team had only a week to officially train for their 48-game season, the rushed camp can’t be used as an excuse, as all 30 teams faced the same circumstances.
“I think everyone physically is there,” said Morris. “I think mentally we’ve made some mistakes we don’t normally make, whether it’s trying to make an extra play in our zone or an extra play in their zone.”
Outside of his team-leading six penalty minutes, Shane Doan (goal, assist and 1 +/-) has been on of the Coyotes’ lone bright spots during the team’s sluggish start. Still, Phoenix’s captain says it’s important for everyone to regain the focus that made them collectively great last spring.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it and say it’s this or that,” Doan said. “It’s about an attention to detail and our focus on doing all of the little things that are so important.”
Doan believes that while guys are excited about being back on the ice together, that excitement may have forced some to try to do more than usual.
“I think you come back and try to do more than the little stuff,” said Doan. “You want to score a goal or do something big, and instead we have to make sure we do the little things right.”
While the Coyotes look to get back on track against a Columbus team that won a league-worst 29 games in 2011-12, don’t expect Doan and Co. to rest on their laurels, because three of those victories came at Phoenix’s expense.