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Off the Ice: Defense-first just isn’t working

When you look at the numbers, the Phoenix Coyotes and their defense-first emphasis seems to be working really well.

They have allowed just as many goals as they have scored (16) and have slightly less shots than their opponents (151 to 156) in the first five games.

But their record doesn’t back the numbers, as they sit at 2-2-1 and were completely outclassed by the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks, the two teams to outright beat them. While you can argue that these two teams are likely to make a fairly decent playoff run, it’s not an excuse to give up 11 goals and 87 shots.

Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett always preaches that his team is defense-first, preferring to protect the net than get forward and attack.

Well, Tip, I have news for you. It’s not working.

When the Coyotes lost Ilya Bryzgalov, they lost their right to be defense-first. The current goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera is not that solid and cannot take the pressure if the defense has a lapse, which appears to be happening a lot this season. As they say, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

The Coyotes allow too many shots in big games and do not shoot enough. It’s simple math to see where that is headed. With offensive-minded defensemen in Keith Yandle and Oliver Eckman-Larssen, the Coyotes need to become a fast-transition team with a focus on burying the puck in the other team’s net. It’s tough to score when you’re getting scored on.

Forwards with speed, like Radim Vrbata, Lauri Korpikoski and Mikkel Boedker, should be exhausted at the end of every game because they’re seeing so much ice time. It’s time to do what a world-class hockey team does: get out of your zone, into theirs and camp out as long as possible while shelling the net rather than sitting back and letting the shelling come to you.

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