At 6-2-2, the Phoenix Coyotes are off to their best start since the 2000-01 season when they began the season 8-1-1. That is to say that in a vigorous Pacific Division, that stands to only be good enough for third place.
The message that Dave Tippett always addresses to his team before they step on the ice: don’t get outworked.
With all the current Coyotes who have done their work, newcomer Mike Ribeiro has had a stellar week. In the last four games, Ribeiro netted five goals, including two against Detroit and Calgary, both in wins. He has earned a point in his last seven games, and the franchise is seeing his production on the ice much quicker than anticipated.
“I’m getting more comfortable, that’s for sure,” Ribeiro said. “When the team plays good everyone looks good, so it’s getting easier and hopefully I can keep helping the team.”
Molding him to be the way the Coyotes want him to be has been their most important task. Playing in teams where he has wanted to earn the star role, Dave Tippett instead wants him to perform as a role player just like everyone else. He has racked up points after his slow start, but now the comfort and unity of Ribeiro has now begun to show.
“We had to get him out of the stigma of the ‘you’re the guy now’ thing,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “We don’t just win with one guy; we win with everybody.”
The Coyotes could use more from a player like him with their captain Shane Doan not at 100%. He was scratched Tuesday against Calgary due to a lower body injury. With the teams tied at two in the third period, Ribiero scored the game winner early and allowed his defense to hold on.
“He finds a way to have an impact on the game,” Tippett said. “He’s a quirky player but he can do good things for you and tonight was a good example of that.”
Phoenix has also increased their points streak to seven games after falling in overtime to Anaheim and Ottawa. This all started after suffering lopsided losses to start their previous five game road trip. Since then, the team has began to unify with their talent. Even in its two losses, the team did hold their own to at least steal a point and were able to bounce back from a collapse in Anaheim, having to play against Detroit less than a day later. A 5-2 victory over the Red Wings secured a series sweep for the second time in four years.
It seems like a bitter taste still lingers from those back-to-back playoff losses just a few years ago.
“I always like to play against them. I love their history and the great players they have had and it’s definitely something extra,” Hanzal said. “It’s such a challenge; you just want to beat them. I’ve been working on going low blocker and it worked out.”
Even Mike Smith joined in on the fun in that game. He became the 11th goalie in NHL history to score when he launched one across ice on an emtpy net.
“I’m thrilled with the way we played,” Smith said. “It’s just a bonus to be able to score a goal in this league… Everything has to work right and the clock has to slow down at the right time of the game to let it trickle in over the line.”
Regardless, a decent start must now be topped by consistent play. As 14 points in their first 10 games only has them third in the division, the competition has risen. San Jose has yet to lose a game, while Anaheim is also starting their season just as well as their Stanley Cup run back in 2007. Vancouver and Los Angeles have been mediocre, but they are predicted to earn a top seed playoff spot. Phoenix will face the Kings on Thursday, their first meeting since Rostislav Klesla was sent to the hospital from Kings forward Jordan Nolan.
News and Notes
Shane Doan moved to second all time in franchise points with 818 after the win against Detroit. Dale Hawerchuck picked up 929 points when he was with Winnepeg.
Brandon Yip has been called back from Peoria, while Tim Kennedy has been moved to the AHL.