Coyotes notebook: Moving up in playoff race
The importance wasn’t lost on Shane Doan. After he put away an overtime goal to beat Calgary 2-1 on Thursday night, the Coyotes had collected eight points over six days and jumped from 12th place in the Western Conference to eighth, slipping past Minnesota into the final playoff spot.
“Nine days ago we’d lost to Anaheim and we were five points out of the playoffs with I think four teams above us,” Doan said. “Now you’re back where you want to be, but at the same time we can’t be content with that. We have to keep pushing and see how far with can take this.”
How far can they take it? After winning four straight games for the first time all season at exactly the right time, Phoenix is now just four points behind the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks, who have four games in hand but are about to embark on a brutal two-week, nine-game road trip.
The Coyotes have already been through their torture test on the road, spending most of December and January away from Arizona. And with the schedule now more in their favor, having won four of the last five at Jobing.com Arena bodes well for a team that plays on home ice nine times in the month of March.
The Coyotes weren’t very sharp Thursday. Goalie Mike Smith kept them in the game early with 10 first-period saves, and a silly tripping penalty by Calgary’s Mikael Backlund opened the door for Doan’s game-winner in OT. But after losing one-goal game after one-goal game despite playing well, the Coyotes were happy to pick up two points on a night when they didn’t have their best stuff.
Like the Flames, the Chicago Blackhawks will come to Phoenix on Saturday after playing the Sharks the night before in San Jose. The building will be packed, as the popular Jeremy Roenick is coming home to be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. A fifth straight win would put the icing on the best week of the season.
— The Coyotes will play the Flames three more times before the end of the season — they play four times between Thursday and March 15 — which is good news for Phoenix. The Coyotes have defeated the Flames five straight times and seven of the past eight times dating back to the 2009-10 season.
That makes sense, as Phoenix has a line of Ray Whitney, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata that matches up well with Calgary’s trio of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay — the top three scorers on a team that scrounges for goals. And the Coyotes have had good success against Miikka Kiprusoff, a goalie who gives many top teams fits.
— Tapes of Thursday’s game won’t be sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Both teams played a ragged, inconsistent style, and pretty passes were at a minimum. But Phoenix coach Dave Tippett wasn’t surprised.
“It was a sloppy game — there were pucks bouncing all over the place,” Tippett said. “That’s what it’s going to be like (down the stretch). You’ve got to find ways to get points. We’ll take the points, stick those in the bank and move on.”
It wasn’t the kind of game the Coyotes played in wins over San Jose, Detroit and Dallas. Their forecheck was all but invisible, and their ability to put passes together suffered from poor neutral-zone play. But some of the credit has to go to Calgary, another desperate team scrounging for all the points it can get.
“You recognize how good Calgary is playing and how they’re jumping into the play and they’re forcing the issue,” Shane Doan said. “You look at their back end and the way that (TJ) Brodie and (Jay) Bouwmeester and (Mark) Giordano jump into the play; they’re all guys that you have to be aware of and be on your toes when they’re on the ice.”
— It wasn’t Keith Yandle’s best night. The All-Star defenseman was goaded into penalties twice in the third period. He was in the box for dancing with Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich when Olli Jokinen tied the game for the Flames, and a few minutes later, he got into a scrum with Mikael Backlund and earned a double minor with a late punch to Backlund’s face while they were being held by the linesmen.
“I didn’t want to really fight him. I just wanted to take him out of the game, frustrate him” Backlund said. “He’s their best defenseman, the best player on their team. I just tried to hold him down, and then he gave me an (expletive) cheap shot.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’re not looking to just crawl. We’re trying to run with this.” — Coyotes captain Shane Doan, on the four-game winning streak that has lifted the team into the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
— G Mike Smith was very good in the first period, making several sparkling saves among his 10 stops. He allowed just one goal for the third straight game and won his career-best 22nd game of the season.
— LW Taylor Pyatt snapped a 10-game goal-less drought with his seventh goal of the season in the first period. Pyatt now has seven goals on the season, a far cry from the 18 he had last season.
— LW Ray Whitney continued his torrid scoring pace with his team-leading 34th assist on Shane Doan’s overtime game-winner. With 50 points on the season and a season-best seven-game scoring streak with 11 points (2-9-11) over that span, he is three shy of his career-high scoring streak of 10 games, which he has accomplished twice.