The Phoenix Coyotes may just have something going here.
In an opener to a season that the team and its fans hope will end in the team’s first playoff appearance since 2002, the Coyotes looked dominant in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
Olli Jokinen, the center Phoenix acquired in an offseason deal with the Florida Panthers, made his presence felt early on. He scored the game’s first goal less than seven minutes into the game off a beautiful feed by rookie Kyle Turris, with the team on the power play.
Jokinen added an assist on a first period power play score by Peter Mueller and Keith Yandle slapped home a tally in the second, as the team looked to get the season started on the right foot.
And while it is only one game it is an important one for a team with expectations of the postseason.
The Coyotes showed off their speed and displayed an incredible amount of toughness, handing out several bone-crushing hits to the Blue Jackets who just seemed to lose steam after Yandle’s goal made it 3-1. Goal tender Ilya Bryzgalov was solid in the net for the ‘Yotes, giving up a power play goal where he had a Blue Jackets player draped all over him, blocking his vision.
After the game the players and coaches were of course careful not to get carried away with one win. However, there is definitely a feeling in the air that this team is on the verge of finally breaking through.
A scout for an opposing team told me during the game that he thought the Coyotes looked “much improved” and that their chances of making the playoffs were “very good.”
Getting the first win is definitely a start in the right direction, especially when the win comes at home where the team had a horrific record last season and was the number one reason Shane Doan gave when asked why the team didn’t reach the playoffs.
The team now embarks on a road trip, where the team ironically was excellent last season. The Coyotes will play four games in six nights before coming home for four straight, including tilts against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
For now the expectations seem well-founded. Whether the Coyotes live up to them is a different story, but for one game at least the story is a good one.