Brick by brick, the Coyotes are beginning to forge an identity and a reputation as a tough team to play on home ice.
The Coyotes have been a team that has suffered from poor attendance and subpar on-ice talent since their relocation to Glendale from downtown Phoenix in 2003, but they could be on the verge of changing the narrative in the 2018-19 season.
After years of mediocrity on home ice, the Coyotes have a chance to complete a 5-0 homestand with a win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. Only one Coyotes team has ever accomplished such a feat (2001-02), but it has never been done in the Glendale era.
The Coyotes have done this with consecutive wins against the Canucks, Lightning, Senators and Hurricanes thus far. Arizona has outscored its opponents by a 20-6 margin in those games and has tallied three first-period goals in each of its past three contests.
“I think it’s always important to win your home games,” Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “We want the other team to come in here and have respect for us and to know that we’re going to come out hard. I think we’ve been doing that so far. We didn’t get the wins early on, but we’ve been playing really good in the first period.”
After losing their first two home games of the season before their current homestand, the Coyotes now stand 5-2 at home this season and could surpass the club record of 29 home wins set during the 2009-10 season.
When Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet took over prior to last season, he was on a mission to find out what the team’s identity could be. This homestand has helped him figure it out.
“For me, the identity part of it, when I got here I was always like, ‘What’s our identity?’ and we didn’t know yet,” Tocchet said. “But we’re getting to a level where, when you play us, you hear people say we don’t give up a lot (of chances). Other than the last game, we’ve been pretty stingy when it comes to chance against.
“I think, for the most part, we’ve been a team that defends well and buys into it. I like the fact that our team takes it personally if a team scores or we allow a barrage of chances. There’s no complacency with them.”
The Coyotes have allowed just 10 goals in seven home games this season, good for an average of 1.4 goals allowed per game at home. They’ve allowed the fewest total goals home and away (24) among NHL teams this season, yielding an average of just two per contest.
When Ekman-Larsson was asked what has prevented the Coyotes from establishing a strong identity and reputation on home ice since his arrival to the club during the 2010-11 season, he responded, “Can I think about that one for two days and get back to you?”
But from where Ekman-Larsson stands this season, his first as captain, a combination of stingy defense, elite goaltending and timely offense have resulted in the team’s current stretch of success at home.
“I just think it was a big help that we have this thought that we can play against anyone in this league and have a chance to beat anyone,” Ekman-Larsson said. “We’ve been building on that and we’ve got that feeling now. If we’re down or not playing good, we have great goalies that are going to keep us in the games. We’re going to get chances to win those games even if we’re not playing our best.
“It’s a really good feeling to have, and that’s what I think is the biggest thing. We haven’t had that for a long time. From my standpoint, that’s huge.”
As the blue line turns…
After missing the past two games because of flu-like symptoms, Kevin Connauton is “probable” to play Monday, per Tocchet. Connauton skated with the team on Sunday and experienced no ill effects.
“He had a good practice today and I think he feels better today,” Tocchet said. “We’ll see what his energy level looks like in the morning.”
Look for rookie Ilya Lyubushkin to serve as the blue line’s healthy scratch for Monday’s game.
Meanwhile, Jakob Chychrun continues to skate with the team and participate in full contact as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. And while Tocchet wouldn’t commit to a firm timeline on his return, he did say Chychrun could make an appearance on the club’s upcoming road trip.
“He’s getting really close,” Tocchet said. “His practices are getting better and better, he’s pushing and shoving … It’s not going to be a month and it’s not going to be three weeks, but he’s getting close. It’s not tomorrow or the next day’s game, but he’s in that range.”
Richard Morin covers the Coyotes and Diamondbacks for azcentral sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 480-316-2493. Follow him on Twitter @ramorin_azc.
Flyers at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gila River Arena.
TV/Radio: FSAZ/KMVP-FM (98.7).
Outlook: The Arizona Coyotes (7-5-0) look to complete a perfect five-game homestand when they host the Philadelphia Flyers (6-7-1) on Monday in Glendale. … The teams meet only twice this season, with the second meeting coming on Thursday in Philadelphia; the Coyotes got their first win of last season on Oct. 30, 2017, in Philadelphia, an overtime victory spurred by Christian Fischer’s winning goal in the extra frame. … The Flyers are wrapping up a four-game road trip in which they have already fared 2-0-1 against the Ducks, Kings and Sharks. … The Flyers are led in scoring by forwards Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, both of whom have tallied four goals and 10 assists in 14 games this season.
Projected Coyotes lineup
Josh Archibald and Ilya Lyubushkin.
Connauton (illness) is probable for Friday’s game after missing the last two contests due to flu-like symptoms. … Jakob Chychrun (knee) continues skating with the team but is still not cleared to play. … Christian Dvorak (torn pectoral) is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery in October.
Projected Flyers lineup
Tyrell Goulbourne, Andrew MacDonald and Michal Neuvirth.