Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Was nice to see the Rangers get a big win the night before.
But I am going to focus on the Phoenix Coyotes for this post. This team has come out and surprised the hockey world after a tumultuous summer left the team in a state of financial limbo. With 27 points the Coyotes sit in 9th place in the Western Conference, a position much higher than many thought they would get to during the course of the season. But under the direction of a new head coach in Dave Tippett, the Coyotes have slowly begun to find their game and are turning some heads around the league. Honestly, who thought the Coyotes would be ahead of teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks, and Anaheim Ducks?
It all starts with Ilya Bryzgalov who has been the backbone of the team the entire season. He is in the top five of the goals against average category with a stellar 2.13 and a .918 save percentage. He is tied for the league lead in shutouts with three and has 12 of Phoenix's 13 wins. Some of this may be a product of the defense first system the Coyotes are running right now but either way Bryzgalov will have to continue his stellar play as he tries to establish him self as a bonafide starter in the National Hockey League.
Offense continues to be a source of concern for the Coyotes. Radim Vrbata and Scottie Upshall are tied for the team lead in goals with 7 apiece. With the Coyotes averaging just over two goals a game this season, it is making it hard on the team to get victories. Veteran players like Shane Doan, Robert Lang, along with youngster Peter Mueller will all need to step up and be the offensive leaders they can be. Doan leads the team in points with 16 while Lang is just three behind with 13.
One source of offense that has made itself known is the blue line where three defensemen have over ten points so far this season. Veterans Ed Jovanovski and Adrian Aucoin have been the big anchors for the team on the blue line. Jovocop has 13 points while Aucoin is right behind him with 12. Both armed with booming shots, look for them to continue to rain pucks down from the blue line.
The third defenseman is Keith Yandle who is really coming into his own this season. With 11 points so far the smooth skating youngster is making his mark not only on this team but around the league. His offensive abilities have never been under question but his defense has become much improved. As a quarterback on the power play Yandle will be expected to shoulder more responsibility as the season goes on.
Phoenix is on a two game skid right now and will welcome the division rival Dallas Stars into town tonight in what I consider to be an important game in the long run. Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek are back from their injuries which puts the blue line all ahead full. The Stars are coming off a tough shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues and want to make a statement against the Coyotes.
The Coyotes close out the month of November on Sunday when they travel to Anaheim.