When the hockey season began, a major goal for the Phoenix Coyotes was improved play at home.
Turn our home rink into a House of Fear, players collectively reasoned.
For the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes’ home building, was not exactly a House of Horrors for opposing teams. In fact, the Phoenix home record last season barely reached .500, and the Coyotes went 14-8-2 on home ice.
Fast forward to five weeks into the season.
Clearly improved at home specifically and overall within the league, the Coyotes’ play can best be defined as “finding ways to win.” The combination of stable ownership and the influx of skilled players have raised the bar as well as the team‘s collective confidence level.
After the Coyotes squeezed out a 4-3 shootout win over Washington at Jobing.com Arena last Saturday, they increased their home record to 8-0-1. That means Phoenix continues undefeated in regulation at home and only the Anaheim Ducks remain the other Western Conference team without a home defeat.
“We talk about not losing at home,” said goalie Mike Smith. “We like to keep that trend alive.”
One method in finding ways to win is greater efficiency on the power play.
Last season, the Coyotes were tied for 25th in power-play scoring and dead last on the road. With the addition of assistant coach Newell Brown to help out with the man advantage, the improvement is noticeable.
Coming into the Washington game last Saturday, the Coyotes were tied for sixth at home and 13th overall in the league on the power play. Against the Capitals, they were 2-of-4 with the man advantage, and captain Shane Doan scored the tying goal on the power play with just under two minutes left in regulation.
In the shootout, goals by Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker helped the Coyotes reach 26 standings points. That’s good for second place in the Pacific Division and a spot just behind Anaheim.
“The points count as much now as points in March and April,” Doan said. “At home, we need to find ways to win. You get on a run and that builds confidence. We’ll take the two points in any way we can. Right now, it’s fun.”
After the first month of the season, the Coyotes have not turned Jobing.com Arena into the old Spectrum in Philadelphia. Most observers from the period in which the Flyers won their two Stanley Cups (1974-75) thought the aura of the building, combined with the Flyers’ aggressive play, was worth at least one goal to the home team.
At this point, the Coyotes do not employ the Broad Street Bullies style but do show the kind of resiliency good teams possess.
“We’re confident that we can be a resilient group,” Smith added. “When we play at a higher confidence level, that makes my job easier.”
Because the Coyotes tend to score “by committee,” coach Dave Tippett stresses the need for all players to be accountable. Only through a total team effort, he likes to tell reporters, can success be achieved.
“We rely on everyone to contribute,” he said after the Washington game. “Right now, we’ll bank the points we’re getting. Finding ways to win is a good sign, but everyone needs to step forward.”
After a quick two-game road trip to St. Louis and Chicago this week, the Coyotes return to the desert for a three-game homestand.
Two of the three opponents, Colorado and Anaheim, are Western Conference threats. Their presence should test the Coyotes’ ability to remain unbeaten in home regulation games.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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