March 1, 2012

"Wishing February wouldn't end"

There are two reasons this February has been good. The first being it is my birthday month. The other reason you ask? The Phoenix Coyotes posted an astonishing 11-0-1 record through the month. February ended on a good note though as they defeated the Vancouver Canucks, who not only are the leading points team in the league, but also the only team to put a dent in the near perfect month for the Coyotes.

So what exactly propelled the team to this great streak?

No doubt about it Mike Smith has been huge for this team. He has set the franchise record for consecutive wins which currently sits at 11 and counting. Any doubters of the once wrote off net minder have been quieted this season. Remember, the Lightning sent him down to their AHL affiliate less than a year ago. Talk about a turn around season for the net minder.

However, Smith is not the only one doing things on the ice to make this team into a playoff team.

Take Ray Whitney, who is currently 39 years young and having an outstanding year on the desert. Not only does he lead the team on points, but has been an instrumental part in this extraordinary push towards the playoffs. The "Wizard" will turn forty next month and continues to play at a high level. I would have to draw a comparison to the Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash. They both seem to get better as the years pass.

One of the most overlooked if not the most overlooked player who got snubbed from the All Star game in Ottawa is Radim Vrbata. He leads the team in the goals category with 30. Even more impressive is the fact that ten of those thirty are game winning goals. Talk about clutch. You take away Vrbata's 30 tallies and who knows where the Coyotes would be.

While that is only a few players/reasons this team is performing so well at the right time, I think it comes down to the work ethic and chemistry on this team. The players in the locker room all know their roles on this team and have been executing them to near perfection. That is largely due to Dave Tippett's pack mentality. The system is realistically the only way this team can and will win. They don't have the superstars that an take over games like other NHL teams do.

Job well done Phoenix. Here's to hoping we have a third straight playoff birth. Keep proving the hockey world wrong.

What's not to love about the scorching Phoenix Coyotes?

- Chase Tomlinson

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