The Phoenix Coyotes have continued their hot start to the season, winners of seven of their last eight and tied for second in the Western Conference with 28 points.
However, there are some reasons to be concerned. The last time Phoenix won in regulation was Oct. 29, and even though they pulled out the 3-2 overtime win in St. Louis Tuesday night, the Coyote’s performance, particularly in the third period, was lacking.
Captain Shane Doan told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 620 Wednesday there are both positives and negatives to take away from the recent stretch.
“It’s a little bit unnerving, and then at the same time encouraging,” Doan explained. “Because you know we’re going to have to play better than we’re playing to continue to keep winning. But at the same time, we keep winning. It’s hard to put your finger on it.”
Doan added head coach Dave Tippett let his team know after their victory over the Blues that they can’t expect to keep winning if they don’t pick up their level of play. However, Doan said Tippett has to avoid being discouraging, because at the end of the day, the Coyotes are still picking up points.
“That’s really all that matters,” Doan said. “And it’s a delicate balance for him, because he never wants to turn down a win. But we know we’ve got areas of our game that we need to improve.”
There is reason to be optimistic too, though, as the Coyotes have had a grueling run of games against top-level teams. The Western Conference appears to be much more competitive than the East — the ninth-placed Anaheim Ducks would rank second in the Eastern Conference — so Phoenix has been pulling out wins over elite competition.
“We just played top-10 teams in the NHL for the last two weeks, and they’re all in our division and all in our conference,” Doan said.
The next couple games don’t bring much rest either, as Phoenix visits the Chicago Blackhawks, the reigning Stanley Cup champion, before hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Eastern Conference’s leader in points.
The only break for the Coyotes is that the Lightning are without leading scorer Steven Stamkos, as he broke his tibia on an unsettling play Monday.
“That hurts them huge,” Doan said. “He’s one of the best players in the league right now. And he’s such a great guy too, an unbelievable kid.”
The Coyotes play the Blackhawks at the United Center Thursday at 6 p.m. MT.