Off the Ice: Phoenix Coyotes quietly turning Glendale into fortress
We’re all familiar with the old adage that a man’s home is his castle.
But for the Phoenix Coyotes, that phrase is taking on a new meaning for the 2013-2014 season: The Coyotes are quietly turning Jobing.com Arena into a fortress.
In case you’re unaware, the team has yet to take a regulation time loss in Glendale this season. They’re 7-0-1, with the only defeat coming at the hands of the Ottawa Senators in overtime.
Last season, the Coyotes only won 14 of 24 home games. That’s just slightly better than 50 percent (I’m good at math). Basically, a home result was almost coming down to a coin flip.
This season, it’s going to be a different story. The Coyotes are focused on guarding their fortress. It’s something the players have echoed all season and the rhetoric didn’t change follow Tuesday’s shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks.
“We talked about it at the beginning of the season that we want to be strong at home and be winning at home and be getting points so it will be a good thing if we can keep it going like this,” forward Radim Vrbata said.
And Vrbata would know. A good fortress is best defended by firepower, and the winger is the biggest cannon on the Coyotes bench. He leads the team with six home goals. Even he admitted his game was different this season.
“Personally, it’s weird because the last couple seasons I was scoring more on the road and this year I don’t think I’ve scored on the road yet,” he said.
Every player on the team knows stocking up on home wins is essential given the shootout that is already the Pacific Division. Just seven points separate the division-leading Anaheim Ducks from the fifth-place Los Angeles Kings.
“When you play at home you have to find ways to win,” said captain Shane Doan. “Those are points that are huge and it’s tough winning in their building and it has to be tough to win in ours.”
Tough is an understatement. So far this season, there are two other teams who have yet to suffer a regulation defeat at home. Both are in the Coyotes’ division. Both lead the Coyotes in points.
Head coach Dave Tippett is well aware that the key to winning the division, or at least making the playoffs, starts on your own doorstep.
“If you look at all teams that have a chance to win a division or be playoff teams, they all have a good home record,” he said Tuesday. “That’s something we’ve talked about as a group and we have to continue to push that.”
Tippett’s right. The last five teams to win the Stanley Cup won an average of 63 percent of their home games. Three of those won their divisions and one brought in the President’s Trophy.
However, the Coyotes aren’t content to simply wait behind the walls and welcome teams to the desert. They’re hoping to use the momentum to go on the war path on the road.
“We want to be a tough team to play against in here,” goalie Mike Smith said. “It’s an important thing and it makes going on the road a lot easier.”
Tippett echoed Smith’s sentiments.
“[If] we can establish a really good home feeling and make this a hard place for teams to come and play, I think that carries over to your road record,” he said.
It’s still early in the season, but considering the Coyotes have taken points from all eight of their home games — one-sixth of the total games they’ll play at Jobing.com Arena this season — it’s no wonder the team is looking to use its fortress as a springboard.