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11-15-2012, 01:47 AM
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Defense Please
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Phoenix Improving With a Change in Identity

Captain Shane Doan (37) has been the proprieter of the team's newly found defensive game

It has been a rebuilding year in Phoenix. Two months ago, the team was the second worst in the league, losing games left and right, and unable to score, at even strength or the powerplay. Now, captain Shane Doan has been able to help lead the team up in the standings, and Phoenix has adopted a new strategy that has been paying dividends, on the ice and in the locker room. “We aren’t where we wish we could be, but the guys are really supportive of everyone and we are starting to come together as a team.” Doan leads the team in goals with 13, and has used his rough style to create space for his teammates. Center Martin Hanzal has followed his lead by ramping up his offense to first on the team with 28 points as well, but by no means is this team dependant on one player.

“We have been able to get a lot of contribution out of our depth guys. Boedker has really come up huge for us in a few games; Morris and Campbell have also really upped their game to help keep our offense going.” Said head coach Dave Tippet. While the offense has improved, the team has changed their style to become more defensive. “The first 30 games of the season had guys running around trying to do everything, hurting our defense with odd man rushes and too many chances on [Smith]. Jordan [Eberle] in particular really had a hard time without the skill that he was used to in Edmonton, so right now we are banking on him being able to adjust and get out of this funk he is in. We have been utilizing a much more conservative approach, which has given Mike Smith fewer odd man chances and more space to make the saves we want him to make.” Tippet’s system has been working, with the team playing above .500 and slowly creeping past their competitors in the bottom ranks. All they are looking for is their young guns to improve and embrace the system. Jordan Eberle has been downright atrocious. With a paltry 17 points and a -18 plus minus, he was put on the block to acquire short term elite talent. General Manager recently told the media he was no longer looking to trade the young winger, citing his faith that he would come through long term and make the Coyotes a contender.

A big start for them in this section was being able to defend against San Jose’s potent offense. Being outshot by a 2:1 margin in the first, they were able to capitalize on a defensive breakdown and hold the lead for 2 periods. Mike Smith was able to stand tall until Joe Thornton tied the game midway to the 3rd in a bid to take the game back. However, Yandle was able to rip one past Antti Niemi with 3 minutes to go in the third and steal a win from a team that had control for most of the game.

“That is how we play now. My defense tries to hold them to the outside and allow low percentage shots for me to stop, then we capitalize like we did today and defend any lead we can get,” Smith said.

“It was a big win, especially for guys like Yandle and Smith. Yandle has been huge for us in the past few games, and Smith really needed to have a breakthrough game to up his confidence,” Said Doan.

Yandle currently leads Phoenix defensemen with 20 points and 2 game winning goals, including tonight's against the Sharks.

Phoenix has the opportunity to leapfrog Los Angeles for 13th in the conference; they have a home and home during this section. They also have Toronto, Anaheim, and Nashville, all teams that they will need to pass if they want an opportunity to play past April.

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