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Four reasons why the Phoenix Coyotes have turned the road trip around

The Phoenix Coyotes have bounced back from a pair of road losses to earn W's in two consecutive games. What has changed?

Bruce Bennett

The proverbial panic button has safely returned to seclusion after the Phoenix Coyotes capped off their second win in 24 hours on Friday night to bring their record to 3-2-0.

Fans, maybe even the players, were furiously pressing that same button after a 6-1 shellacking on Long Island, the team's second loss in a row.

The Coyotes appear to have righted the ship with back-to-back wins in Detroit and Philadelphia. What went wrong to start the season and what has changed?

(Editor's note: Please be aware of how small the sample size is. The information is used to evaluate what has already happened and is insufficient for use as a predictor of future outcomes. The large fluctuations are to be expected but provide a barometer for the changes in flow of play so far this season)

  1. Limiting shots against on the penalty kill.
    Games 4-on-5 Corsi Against/60 4-on-5 Shots Against/60
    1-3 99.8 75.6
    4-5 104.5 45.7
    Phoenix killed off every penalty in their two-game win streak, a far cry from the 64.3 percent rate the team killed penalties at to start the season. How did the change come about? During the last two games, the Yotes are allowing fewer pucks to hit the net. Blocking shots is a major part of that. The figures above show the number of opponents' shot attempts (Corsi) actually rose while the number of shots that made it to the net dropped sharply.

  2. Better puck possession and more shots on the power play.
    Games 5-on-4 Corsi For/60 5-on-4 Shots For/60
    1-3 84.1 39.6
    4-5 101.8 42.9
    The Coyotes have increased their pressure on the PP. The jump in Corsi indicates a greater number of shot attempts, subsequently possession, with the extra man. While it has only resulted in a few more shots on goal, its impact goes beyond 5-on-4 play. Phoenix's Michael Stone scored a goal seconds after a power play expired; a direct result of PP pressure and possession.

  3. Increased 5-on-5 save percentage in close games (when a game is within 1 goal either way).
    Games 5-on-5 Close Save %
    1-3 86.7% (13/15)
    4-5 93.2% (41/44)
    Phoenix was plagued by a uncharacteristically poor 5-on-5 close save percentage to begin the season. This was partially due to how early teams scored and how early those teams amassed two or more goal leads. The Coyotes have stayed in the game for longer periods of time in Detroit and Philadelphia as the goaltenders found their rhythm.

  4. Increased 5-on-5 shooting percentage.
    Games Shooting %
    1-3 5.71% (4/70)
    4-5 6.67% (4/60)
    Very much luck based, this stat indicates a few more pucks entering the net than were before. Phoenix scored the same number of 5-on-5 goals in the last two games as they did in the first three, even with 10 less shots. Shooting percentage will vary from game-to-game but it's common for a spike in shooting percentage to correlate with a hot-streak of a team or a player

Small sample size is the primary concern with a piece like this. However, the stats above can quantify what fans are seeing on the ice, better play. The Coyotes are possessing the puck more on the PP and blocking more shots on the PK. Combined with the normalization of the team's 5-on-5 close save percentage, it's no wonder that the team is playing better and winning.

Raw data was collected from Extra Skater and compiled by the author.