The Phoenix Coyotes had their final preseason game Saturday night as new head coach Dave Tippett got to see his new team in action for the first time. With Joe Thornton and newly acquired Dany Heatley coming to town it was not going to be easy.
However the Coyotes did very well as they won a very tight game 2-0. There was no scoring until the third period when Martin Hanzal who will be looked to improve on his offensive totals in years got the Coyotes going scored just 15 seconds into the final frame. Matthew Lombardi scored on the power play just over 7 minutes later to add some insurance. From then on it was all about defense for the Coyotes as Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 27 shots that came his way.
So what is there to take from this? Since it was the final preseason game the two teams fielded rosters that will be pretty close to what is on the ice come the start of the season. Am I saying the Coyotes are going to have the Sharks' number all season? Of course not. But it is a sign that maybe Phoenix will be much better with an actual structured system.
Since I was not at the game and nor could I watch it I do not have first hand account of what went well but reading what other people have said there are a couple of points that looked really good:
1. The special teams over the last few seasons have been absolutely atrocious but last night they did not. The Coyotes power play looked much more creative and, as one fan puts it, was "unpredictable and organized". Phoenix has the talent in the lineup to run a good power play. With a veteran defenseman like Adrian Aucoin at the point experience will help a young team. Add when Ed Jovanovski starts to play and you have a pretty solid back line on the power play. 2. One of the best players on the ice for Phoenix was Peter Mueller. Last season was a dismal sophomore year for Mueller as he struggled to find his game and avoid injury. Yet last night he led the team in shots with seven, most of which were quality shots according to fans. He looks much faster having dropped a few pounds and worked on his skating alot. Despite not ending up on the scoresheet, Mueller's play has Coyote fans excited.
3. Phoenix will be counting on Ilya Bryzgalov to be a foundation in the crease and will have to steal some games for the young Yotes. Stopping all 27 shots last night is a huge step in the right direction, ten of those in the third period. Facing a pretty good offensive team like San Jose has got to be promising.
4. The overall structure of the team was very evident. There was a difference on the ice that, while still learning a new system, there is a purpose and a method to the madness if you will. As one Coyotes fan put it, "I never had that nagging feeling that failure was inevitable that I had alot last year". Tippett's defensive system has already begun to work an with just under a week until next Saturday's first game against the Los Angeles Kings you can bet Phoenix will be working to perfect the system and it will be ready to go to start the season.
A little glimpse of hope that this team can be much better? I hope so but this is still preseason. If Phoenix can do this again next Saturday and do it consistently then who knows where the ceiling may be. Their opening schedule is tough considering they are on the road for three games before coming home. They begin in LA, then move to Pittsburgh and close out the short road trip in Buffalo before coming home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Coming home undefeated would be a nice little surprise for Coyotes fans and would help get fans in the seats for the opener but a 2-1 record is by no means out of the question.
Do not forget that for the Coyotes home opener tickets are very affordable on anyone's budget so everyone in Phoenix should go out and support the team. This is a good young team with alot of promise and motivation for this season. With a bonafide head coach and a strong system this team will be making alot of noise. I sound like an advertisement but click here to get opening night tickets.
Today the New York Rangers have their final preseason game as they visit Washington to visit the Capitals. Game time is Noon EST and will be on MSG. Look for the roster to be posted with the pre-game notes on the Ranger website at some point and the final cuts to be made within the next few days. Head Coach John Tortorella has said he wants his final team to be skating at the MSG Training Center on Tuesday.
Less than a week until the regular season folks. Get those jerseys out.