Hockey Fan Forums banner

Rise through standings gives Phoenix new life

678 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  panoo
Sean Fitz-Gerald, National Post
Published: Monday, January 15, 2007
'We have to keep climbing': Win streak puts 11th-place Coyotes in playoff picture

It was in a newspaper headline, so it had to be true.

"Phoenix buzzing over winning streak," read the title of an article in the East Valley Tribune.

It is possible the Phoenix Coyotes had generated a buzz before, but probably only from all those arena lights buzzing over empty seats. And even that would have been muted by the rolling tumbleweed and echoes of old ESPN strongman competitions, which local television watchers seemed to prefer over their hockey team.

But something was different last week. The Coyotes won their seventh straight game, pulling back to .500 for the first time since October and providing hope for a trip to the playoffs, which Phoenix has made only five times since it swiped the Jets from Winnipeg a decade ago.

The franchise fell back to earth with back-to-back losses over the weekend. But it remains in the post-season picture, which is a victory for a team sewn together from an assortment of discarded patches, and with a great player still trying to become a capable coach.

"We sure dug ourselves a hole," Phoenix general manager Mike Barnett told The Boston Globe. "And we're not out of it yet -- but at least we're finally able to see some light at the top of that hole. We just have to keep climbing."

Phoenix sat 11th in the Western Conference standings yesterday, seven points adrift of eighth-place Minnesota. The Wild played the Chicago Blackhawks last night, which means the Coyotes now have two games in hand.

While it is still a little early for the Coyotes to start spending their playoff bonuses, their revival is a remarkable achievement for a team that won just two of its first 10 games this season. The Coyotes seemed to hit rock bottom when centre Jeremy Roenick was scratched from a game in Vancouver, and decided to watch the game from a local restaurant rather than the press box.

Phoenix flourished, instead.

Goaltender Mikael Tellqvist, cast from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a minor-league forward (Tyson Nash) in November, took the pressure off starter Curtis Joseph. The team swept a five-game road trip from Jan. 1 to Jan. 9, and is now home to a healthy goaltending rivalry.

Tellqvist was in net for Thursday night's loss to Detroit, after reeling off three straight victories. Joseph lost to San Jose on Saturday after four consecutive wins.

It has been five years since the Coyotes made the playoffs, and roughly that long since winger Owen Nolan was a force in the NHL. But he had six points in the Coyotes' five-game road winning streak. Yanic Perreault, who started the season without a team, has 11 points in his last 10 games and was named to the Western Conference all-star team. Even Roenick has managed to work his way back onto the scoresheet.

"The best players have stepped up, but with that, the team has played remarkably well as a group," Gretzky told The Arizona Republic. "They deserve the accolades they're getting right now because they're playing well."

- - -

While Nolan appears to have gained a new lease on hockey with Phoenix, he has lost hold of another record with one of his old teams.

The 34-year-old is no longer the leading goal-scorer in San Jose Sharks history. Current San Jose captain Patrick Marleau seized the mantle last Thursday, notching his 207th marker with the club.

Marleau is also the franchise leader in assists and points -- having wrested both titles from Nolan earlier this season.

Nolan, who was drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1990, spent eight seasons with the Sharks before getting traded to Toronto four years ago. Injuries threatened to derail his career, and he did not play last season.

He has 11 goals and 27 points in 44 games with Phoenix this year.

See less See more
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.