The Arizona Coyotes are inching closer and closer to the .500 plateau. A pair of consecutive wins (and an overall 2-2 week), put the Coyotes at 8-9-1 and outside the bottom-three in the Western Conference. Arizona has a ways to go to catch the top four teams in the Pacific Division, but have started their slow ascent back into contention.
Arizona's mission now is to build upon the previous two contests and string together a long winning streak (or a string of wins and not losing in regulation) to help atone for their early season failures.
Here are some thoughts and observations from the week that was in Coyotes hockey:
- Let's start with the goaltenders since that is the hottest of topics at the moment. Devan Dubnyk has been a solid addition as the team's back-up goalie. In five starts this season, he has been really good in three of them. His numbers look better than Mike Smith's right now, and he is certainly the hot hand. Giving him a few more starts than planned would not be a bad thing.
- However, let's not forget the fact that while Dubnyk has played really well in three of his last five starts, Mike Smith has been far more than adequate in seven of his last 10 starts. The goaltending as a whole has turned things around. I would not stray too far away from the original plan of splitting up starts at this time, except to bring it slightly closer to 50/50 for the time being.
- Brandon Gormley scored his first career goal (and point) on Sunday night in Edmonton. Gormley's play is beginning to come around as he morphs into the third-pairing LD of the future. He has and will continue to see fairly tough assignments. He needs to possess the puck a little more, but as he becomes more comfortable, his offensive game should become more consistent.
- At the time of writing, Gormley's injury status in unknown. If he is out for a long period of time, that is very unfortunate for a player beginning to hit his stride and the team that needs him. Luckily, they did not lose David Schlemko to waivers.
- For all the heat Radim Vrbata got for
not scoring every night "going cold," Mikkel Boedker did the exact same thing. After his hat trick against the Oilers in mid-October, he failed to record a point in 10 of his next 11 games. That issue appears to be corrected as he has points in each of his last four games (2-2-4), including the game-winning goal on Sunday.
- Lucas Lessio earned the call-up when the Coyotes waived Schlemko, after scoring five goals and eight points in 14 AHL games with the Portland Pirates. Many, myself included, expected Lessio to make the team out of training camp -- when he didn't, we knew it would not be too long before he boarded a plane to Arizona. Lessio is a dynamic player that plays an energetic game. With the puck -- he's NHL ready and can make an offensive impact. Without the puck -- his game still needs to improve. He floats around in space too much on defense. Those issues should be corrected with ice time, so we'll see how Lessio does in his second NHL stint.
- The Coyotes have shored things up on special teams after the debacle against Dallas on Tuesday. Arizona has scored a power play goal in three consecutive games (3-for-9) and allowed only one goal in its last 10 penalty kill opportunities in that same timeframe.