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Coyotes Winning with Defense-First Approach

Tuesday, 02.08.2011 / 6:55 PM / Features
By Anthony Perez
GLENDALE -- After giving up 11 goals in five periods last week in back-to-back losses to San Jose and Vancouver, the Coyotes decided as a team that some changes had to be made if they were to get back on the winning track.

What happened was the players recommitted themselves to the defense-first philosophy that Head Coach Dave Tippett stresses. Since then, the results have been positive; the Coyotes have compiled a two-game winning streak and have not surrendered a goal in the past six-plus periods.

Photo by Associated Press.
“It’s a concerted effort by our whole group to make sure we defend better,” Tippett said. “We were loose, and our positioning was poor …We had a lot of factors in our game that weren’t going our way, so it’s a whole group effort. (Ilya Bryzgalov) has been excellent in goal, obviously, but the group had to be a lot better and we have been the last couple of games.”

Bryzgalov stopped 51 of the 51 shots he faced in victories over Minnesota on Saturday and Colorado on Monday. Moreover, the defensemen are playing more responsibly. So are the forwards.

“We’ve been more conscious, I think, that we need to be on the right side of the puck,” captain Shane Doan said, referring to the forwards. “Being on the right side of the puck means being between the puck and the net, and we get caught sometimes being a little too eager on the forecheck and it puts our ‘D’ in trouble and obviously it creates chances on our goaltender.”

The reduction in scoring chances against has served Bryzgalov well.

“When you take care of your net, like we took care of ours in the last two games, you increase your chances to win games,” Bryzgalov said.

Michal Rozsival
Bryzgalov can thank defenseman Michal Rozsival for helping preserve Monday’s shutout of the Avalanche. In the third period, Rozsival blocked a shot taken while Bryzgalov was out of position. It was a nice play, and a symbol of the team’s dedication to defense.

Roszival has been in and out of the lineup because of various minor injuries since coming to the Coyotes in a trade with the New York Rangers last month. After playing in three straight games, he’s starting to fit in.

“I feel good,” Rozsival said. “I still have a lot of room to improve, and I definitely feel like I still need to get better, but I can’t really complain right now.”

Rozsival likes the way the team has responded to adversity, and the way it has recommitted to playing stingy defense.

“Obviously, we got two shutouts, but I think it’s a good step forward for us to see everybody kind of do what we said we are going to do and what we wanted to do as far as team concept,” Rozsival said.
 
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