GLENDALE – With the start of a five-game, 10-day trip looming at the end of the week, Head Coach Dave Tippett gave the Coyotes a day off on Tuesday. It’s a well-deserved break for a team that has won five consecutive games and climbed into first place in the Pacific Division standings. More on that later.
Thanks to their streak, the Coyotes are the talk of the NHL. It began, of course, following a humbling 6-0 loss to Vancouver on home ice on Feb. 2. After that defeat, a re-commitment to defense was established. The results have been eye-popping.
Below are seven keys to the five-game winning streak, presented in by-the-numbers style:
7: Points by Ray Whitney – The veteran winger has taken his playmaking skills to an even higher level and is making the players around him better; six of his seven points have been assists.
6: Goals Allowed – Ilya Bryzgalov has started every game during the winning streak and has stopped 127 of the 133 shots he has faced. Do the math. That’s a .955 save percentage. Bryzgalov is not doing it alone. His teammates have blocked 67 shots in the past five games. More math reveals that is 13.4 blocked shots per game. I know, I know. You were told there would be no math…
5: Victories by Ilya Bryzgalov – Based on his aforementioned .955 save percentage, it’s not surprising that Bryzgalov has posted five wins in a row in a 10-day span. With 24 victories and 24 games to play, Bryzgalov will have to hustle to match the career-best 42 wins he posted last season when he was the Vezina Trophy runner-up. But with the way he’s playing now, I wouldn’t put it past him to match or top that mark. Would you?
4: Goals by Radim Vrbata – Vrbata, who scored 11 goals in the first 53 games, has notched four in the past five. He also potted the only goal in the shootout victory over Chicago on Saturday.
3: Game-winning goals by Radim Vrbata – Enough said.
2: Power-play goals allowed – Phoenix has killed 16 of their opponents’ 18 power plays during the winning streak. That 88.8 percent success rate is impressive on its own but even more so if you consider that four of the Coyotes’ five opponents during the win streak – Chicago (second), Minnesota (seventh), Colorado (ninth) and Dallas (11th) – rank among the NHL’s top 11 teams for power-play efficiency. Plus, the fifth team, Washington, has Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, who have combined to score 13 power-play goals this season.
1: Ranking in the Pacific Division standings – Granted the division is packed tightly and this placement may only last for the moment, but the Coyotes are numero uno in their division on Feb. 15. It marks the latest date in the season that the team has led its division since arriving in Arizona in 1996.
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