Phoenix Coyotes Roundtable: Post-Christmas edition

Paul Bereswill

The FFH editors discuss their ultimate hockey related Christmas gift while looking forward to the Coyotes' New Year's Resolution.

What would have been your perfect hockey related Christmas gift?

Jaime Eisner: I'd take either the Calgary or Buffalo GM job; I'm not greedy. As for a semi more realistic gift, a hockey rink in my backyard to go along with my sticks and net would be nice.

Brendan Porter: Tickets to the Winter Classic or any of the Stadium Series games would have been a terrific gift. I wouldn't mind a Stadium Series game in Arizona next year though.

Jordan Ellel: It would be nice to have season tickets again for the Yotes as I find that I'm not nearly as invested in the team as I felt when I was going to every home game. That being said, if it was something a bit more tangible, I would say that I would not have minded an OEL sweater.

What do the Coyotes need to change between now and the Olympic break to become an effective team in the back stretch?

Brendan: Step one is improving the penalty kill. With a PK hovering between 75-80%, the Coyotes on average surrender one goal per four or five chances. That means they're giving up an extra goal practically once per game. That makes the job of the defense and Mike Smith substantially more difficult, as the margin for error at even strength is razor thin. If they can improve the penalty kill, the Coyotes' defensive style will probably put them in the win column more often than not.

Jordan: They need to get a bit healthier more than anything else. Despite the fact that they are not being as hurt as some teams this season with injuries, the Coyotes have felt it in crucial spots--Doan missing significant time, Korpikoski missing time, Z missing time. These guys make the Coyotes work as a team and with their extended absences, the lineup has felt a bit mushed. It would be nice to see Ribeiro finally get back to what he was doing earlier in the year and putting up some crucial points. Otherwise, I think the team's defensive play and possession have really stepped up in recent games even if the results haven't been superb.

Jaime: The Yotes need to get healthy and rekindle their power play success. Their recent games look more like hockey the hard way than the high scoring offensive affairs of October and November. If their defense remains strong and the power play finds its groove, the Coyotes will be in good position to challenge for an automatic Pacific Division playoff birth.

Why are the Coyotes struggling so much to hold leads compared to years past?

Jordan: Is this really a new thing? I seem to recall the Coyotes having a historic penchant for giving up late period/game goals. Anyone remember a Chicago playoff series a few years back that saw back to back games get forced to OT after the Hawks scored with an empty net and less than 20 seconds remaining (with the 'Yotes losing one of those games. I have no idea what the cause for it has ever been other than that it is a terrible idea to play prevent defense and not try and keep attacking to at least some degree. I think the Coyotes have a bad habit of doing this late in games and periods when they are winning.

Jaime: (see: Jordan). This is not a new issue at all. For years the Coyotes have played very conservatively late in games with the lead. Often they are successful, as evidenced by their record when leading after two periods under coach Dave Tippett. However, Phoenix's offensive struggles often limit their late-game leads to one goal, which is obviously harder to defend than a multi-goal lead.

Brendan: I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but the PK absolutely plays a big part in the Coyotes' difficulties with a lead. The problem is twofold; they give the opposing team extra offensive zone time while simultaneously preventing the Coyotes from getting offensive zone time. As a result, the best offensive players who don't kill penalties don't play and the Coyotes can't get shots on net or even cycle in the offensive zone. Battling the clock is just as important as battling the other team when Phoenix has the lead, and right now they're losing both battles too often.

What should the Coyotes' New Year's Resolution be?

Brendan: I think the Coyotes' New Year's Resolution should be to get in the 3rd playoff spot by the Olympic break. The Coyotes don't want to put their playoff fate in the hands of teams in the Central Division. Get to that guaranteed playoff spot before March and April and the Coyotes will be in a very good position for the stretch run.

Jaime: To block a shot on the PK every now and then.

Jordan: No more trips through tick-infested areas.

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