What a road trip this has turned out to be for the Phoenix Coyotes. At this time two weeks ago the Desert Dogs had lost five-of-six games and found themselves going nowhere fast with a 12-15-0 record. The Coyotes were set to begin a six-game road trip that Wayne Gretzky said would determine if his club was going to be pretenders or contenders.
December 8th @ Los Angeles Kings
The Coyotes began the trip with a quickie in Los Angeles where at some point in the game but I am not sure when, the “VHS” line saw its first action together. Radim Vrbata
, Martin Hanzal
and Freddy Sjostrom would find chemistry together in a hurry and Wayne Gretzky promply took note. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 22 shots, Freddy Sjostrom had a breakout game as he notched three assists, Martin Hanzal
had a pair of helpers while Shane Doan
had a goal and an assist as the Coyotes started their road trip on the right foot. Coyotes win 4-2. FULL GAME RECAPDecember 13th @ New York Islanders
After four days off and a cross-country flight to New York, the Coyotes played a terrific game at Nassau Coliseum, getting goals from some unlikely candidates. Nick Boynton scored his first goal of the season, while Niko Kapanen chipped in with a goal of his own, However, it was Islanders’ goalie Rick DiPietro that stole the show, making 34 saves to hand thee Coyotes their 16th loss of the season and a 1-and-1 start to the trip. Coyotes lose 3-2. FULL GAME RECAPDecember 15th @ New Jersey Devils
That loss would turn out to be the last loss on the road trip for the Coyotes as they stormed into “The Rock” and played a near flawless game. Mikael Tellqvist made his first start in over a month and looked as poised as ever, making 30 saves in spectacular fashion. Telly most certainly had something to prove and showed everyone that the Coyotes have a solid One-Two punch with him and Ilya Bryzgalov manning the pipes. This was also the night that the "VHS Line" broke out as they dominated. The trio combined for 10 points and was a plus-7 in the contest. Rookie Martin Hanzal
scored a goal and added three assists, "Fast Freddy" Sjostrom scored two goals and an assist, while Radim Vrbata
continued to show he was the steal of the summer (acquired from the Blackhawks for Kevyn Adams) as he netted a goal and two helpers. Coyotes win 4-1. FULL GAME RECAPDecember 16th @ New York Rangers
24 hours later the Coyotes were back on the ice, this time at "The World’s Most Famous Arena". Madison Square Garden was the scene and the New York Rangers were the Coyotes opponent. The Coyotes jumped out to an early lead on a power play goal by Joel Perreault, and never looked back. The Coyotes would open up a 5-0 lead in the second period on another goal and an assist by Perreault, playing in just his second game with the club this year. Ilya Bryzgalov was back in net on Sunday and he came ever so close to his second shutout of the year. Bryz made 34 saves on 35 shots and was dominant again for the Coyotes as they improved to 15-16-0 and set themselves up for a chance to get back to .500. Coyotes win again. 5-1 final. FULL GAME RECAPDecember 18th @ Philadelphia Flyers
Tuesday in Philly was that opportunity for the Coyotes and early on it looked as though they would not skate away from the “City of Brotherly Love” with a win, however, with the Coyotes trailing 2-0, rookie Keith Yandle
got the Coyotes on the board Brian Leetch style cutting in from the left point, and scoring from the back door. Then Freddy Sjostrom continued his fine play as he picked up his ninth goal of the year tying the game at two. That set up the opportunity for Peter Mueller to be the hero, and he stepped up to the challenge, netting the game winner to lead the Coyotes to their third straight win and fourth out of five on the road trip. Coyotes win 3-2.
FULL GAME RECAPDecember 20th @ San Jose Sharks
After a long east coast swing, the Coyotes had one final stop before heading back to the desert. San Jose was the destination, a place and team that had given the Coyotes nightmares in the first four meetings this season. The Coyotes entered Thursday’s game against the Sharks 0-4 against them this year, while being outscored 16-1. Ugggghhh. However, The Coyotes would show the hockey world that this is a different team this time around. After squandering a one goal lead, then trailing by a goal with under a minute to play, and shorthanded, the Coyotes found a way to tie the game. Ed Jovanovski made a fantastic play at the blueline to create space and find Shane Doan
, who whistled a shot past Evgeni Nabakov to force overtime. Eventually the Coyotes would win in a shootout, thanks to three spectacular saves by Ilya Bryzgalov and a goal by Peter Mueller, the first (of many more to come) of his career. Coyotes win 3-2. FULL GAME RECAP
17-16-0 is the Coyotes record. Who would have ever thought the Coyotes would be right in thick of things after 33 games? I had my doubts, as did you. But this is a different team, one that plays with passion, intensity, and most of all, they have fun. Check out the smile on Shane Doan
’s face after he scored the tying goal in San Jose. That says it all.