A season removed from missing the playoffs, and an offseason removed from dodging relocation, the Phoenix Coyotes are off to a stellar start, currently standing second in the NHL’s Western Conference with 28 points.
They’ve won seven of their last eight games and nine of their last 11. And, perhaps more tellingly, five of their last six games have been won after regulation, following Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win in St. Louis against the Blues.
The team’s knack for finding its way into the points well has been its calling card throughout the season. Even in losses — like the one versus the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center earlier this season — the Coyotes have shown fight, rallying and staying in games despite adversity.
“First and foremost, I’m pleased with the ability to find ways to win games. I think that’s a trait that good teams have,” head coach Dave Tippett said Wednesday while on air with The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta.
“There’s different scenarios that we’ve been able to grab a hold of and find a way to get points.”
Over the weekend, the Coyotes found themselves down 3-1 to the Washington Capitals with just over 3:30 to play in regulation when Lauri Korpikoski, who led the team in hits on Saturday, scored to put the team within a goal of forcing overtime. Captain Shane Doan scored his second goal of the night with just under two minutes to play and the Coyotes ultimately prevailed via shootout, 4-3.
In some regards, the game could serve as a microcosm of the season, as the Coyotes overcame not just a two-goal deficit, but adversity throughout the night. The Capitals came to town with the league’s best power play, which was even more of a juggernaut when matched up against the Coyotes’ league-worst power play kill. Yet, Phoenix gave their opponent seven power plays, somehow only allowing two goals in those instances.
Now, as the team fights through a difficult stretch of games, Tippett believes his team hasn’t shown all their cards just yet.
“I think there’s still a lot of upside on this team,” the coach said. “There’s some mistakes that we’re making that don’t give us the best chance to win every night and a lot of those things hopefully we can correct and continue to improve, but we’ll take the wins.
“Our group is focused on how we get better — how we get ourselves to an elite status in the league.”
As for the stretch of opponents the Coyotes now face, Tippett says he and the team are excited for the challenge.
“The better competition you play, the more it tests your team,” he explained. “And I like the tests we’re going through right now.”
The trip to the United Center to face the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday is no different.
“Everybody’s excited to come back to Chicago.”