The character Dorothy from the film classic “The Wizard of Oz” repeatedly proclaimed, “There’s no place like home.” But she was from Kansas and chances are, she’d never seen St. Louis, Columbus or Los Angeles.
For the Coyotes, there’s been no place like Glendale this season, having won 10 of their first 16 games on home ice. Now they’re on the road for a four-game trip to the aforementioned stops hoping to find their own, personal emerald cities.
We’ve seen a little of everything as we cross over the half-way mark of this truncated 48-game hockey calendar. There have been the mini-runs of success, a few blown leads on the road, the emerging contributors, the balance and surprise finishes.
Home ice hasn’t been the issue for the Coyotes. They are tied with Ottawa for the third best home record in the League. Unfortunately, they’re just 23rd best on the road as I ponder this four game roadie. But it has been on the road where the team has shown flashes of improvement over the last month that’s helped them regain their swagger as a potential playoff qualifier in the Western Conference.
Just go back to their second trip of the season into San Jose. Mike Smith was brilliant in a 33-save shootout win against the Sharks in which the Coyotes shut down their high-flying rival in a matinee at the Shark Tank. At the time, San Jose was one of the hottest teams in the circuit, but the Coyotes found a way to get it done on the road.
The same was true a couple of nights later, again on the road, in Denver when team captain Shane Doan scored an overtime, game-winner against the Avalanche. That tally ignited an offensive resurrection of sorts for the long time captain who has since jumped into the team’s goal scoring lead.
Then on Feb. 26 in Vancouver, the Coyotes continued to show improvements in their team game when they shut down the Canucks in a hard fought, 4-2 win. They frustrated the Canucks all over the ice and got timely goals from Mikkel Boedker, Antoine Vermette, and a pair of markers from super utility player Kyle Chipchura.
Yes, a 3-5-2 road record is hardly acceptable for a team battling for their playoff lives along with about 12 of the other 15 teams in the west. But the fact they’ve been able to work toward solidifying multiple aspects of their team game while away from home should give them confidence as they approach these next four huge tilts. And through this mini-hockey resurrection, they have found a way to record points in four of the last seven road games. Sure, they blew late leads in both Edmonton and Calgary last month. But both situations led to personal soul searching and re-examinations from both players and coaches, and it helped chart courses of correction over the past few weeks.
Now they hit the road for what could be their toughest stretch of the season. The St. Louis Blues have won two of their last three games since visiting the Coyotes a week ago when they skated away with a 6-3 win. Saturday’s opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets caught fire and won five in a row with points in six straight. And despite the Coyotes 5-2 win over Los Angeles on Tuesday, the Kings have won 11 of the last 15, including an 8-2-1 mark at Staples Center.
Collectively, the Coyotes have won three of five games this season against the Blues, Blue Jackets and Kings. Yet all five games were played in Glendale.
Time for the Coyotes to respond on the road.
Repeat after me, “There’s no place like road.”
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