For some teams, heading out on “the road” can spell trouble, but for the Coyotes “the road” has been a place of success in recent seasons.
For instance, Phoenix finished the 2011-12 regular season with a record of 20-14-7 away from Jobing.com Arena, which includes a five-game road winning streak that lasted from Oct. 13 to Nov. 15.
Defenseman Keith Yandle
credits the team’s success on the road to the fact that it doesn’t abandon its defensively responsible style simply because it's away from home.
“I don’t think we get away from our game,” said Yandle, when asked why the Coyotes are so good when wearing their white sweaters. “If we just play our game, even on the road, we’re a lot better off.”
Captain Shane Doan
credits the team’s road success to its pack mentality.
“We get so many contributions from everybody,” Doan said. “On the road that’s so vital because you don’t have last change (and) you don’t have the ability to get specific guys on the ice, but we have the ability to rely on so many different lines and so many different guys.”
That same commitment to the system and pack mentality has especially benefitted them in Chicago, where the Coyotes will play Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Tuesday and Thursday. During 2011-12, Phoenix won both regular-season games played at the United Center; a 4-1 decision on Nov. 29, and a 4-3 shootout victory a week later on Dec. 5.
In Head Coach Dave Tippett's three seasons, the Coyotes are an impressive 63-42-18 on the road and 4-1-1 at the United Center.
"We play a very similar game both home and on the road," Tippett said. "We are a hard-working, tight-checking, grind-it-out team -- and sometimes that's the best answer on the road.
He added: "There will be great energy in the building (on Tuesday and Thursday), but this is the fun time to play. You love to go in there and play in that atmosphere like that, just like our atmosphere at home was excellent. But the game is played on the ice, not in the stands. The energy in the building is great. but we still have to go in there and play well and do what it takes to win."
Yandle thinks the team’s good play in Chicago is due, in part, to the atmosphere there. He says the environment inside the “Madhouse on Madison” can light a fire under the visiting team just as much as it can the home team.
“The crowd is electric,” said Yandle, who has notched three assists in the first two games of the series. “You get hyped up for it (but) you’ve got to control your emotions a little bit. It’s something that from the anthem to the end of the game we’ve just got to be on.”
Doan agrees with Yandle.
“It’ll be awesome,” said Doan, who picked up an assist in Saturday’s Game 2 loss. “As a player you get up just as much, no matter if you’re a home team or a visiting team. You have a crowd that’s excited and energetic, just like our building. It’s going to be similar and we expect it to be a lot of fun.”
The Coyotes are a close-knit group and Yandle says that their camaraderie will help them as they play their first road games of the postseason.
“It’s a great group of guys,” Yandle said. “Especially playoff time, you spend a lot more time with each other, everyone is eating dinner together, you’re hanging out everyday. It’s a lot of fun; it’s something you look forward to.”