The Arizona Coyotes are showing that better discipline and torrid fore-checking are ingredients for gathering points in the standings.
The last eight games have been impressive
Over the last eight-game span, the Coyotes have been in all but one game while going to overtime six times but coming away with eight points in the process.
It shows progress which the team's management and coaching staff has been waiting patiently to come to fruition.
What's been their path to improvement?
The last two games especially have been a display of persistent fore-checking which gets them possession of the puck... and when you have the puck good things can happen.
The other key factor has been outstanding defense and exceptional goaltending by Antti Raanta. In the Islander game last night, he made three consecutive circus-like saves to thwart a scoring attempt, and as happens so many times... the Coyotes came down and scored the winning goal.
Nick Cousins had a career game scoring twice and gathering an assist on Brendan Perlini's third goal in his last three games.
Right now, young players like Christian Fischer, Perlini, Christian Dvorak, and Josh Archibald are leading the way.
Young players can take some time to develop, but right now it seems that a group of them are getting it done in a big way.
Progress is infectious, and it seems that the Yotes are starting to come together as a team.
And that can lead to good things, like points in the standings.
Close games have been prevalent
In all but a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues, the team has been involved in one-goal games over this eight-game period. That means they are in games and are still learning how to finish them off.
It may have been the overtime win against the Nashville Predators on January 4, 2018, which inspired this turnaround, but in any case, it showed the team can stay with quality teams.
Playing the tough Predators twice within two weeks and coming away with three of a possible four points shows that the Coyotes have made progress.
Now, let's be realistic this doesn't mean that they will make the playoffs... not even close. What it does mean is this team is maturing, learning how to stay in games, and playing at a much higher level.
Nick Cousins has stepped up his game
And head coach Rick Tocchet is noticing some definite improvement by his gritty forward Cousins. He has three goals, two assists over that eight-game span, and he was a healthy scratch in one of those games.
Cousins has improved, and so have other players who are showing fans that this team has more than potential, it has heart.
Things can only improve when every player is on the same page and playing the system. It has taken a bit of time for the entire team to get to the point where they are playing Tocchet's system, but it is a work in progress for sure.
The next five games will be vital to see if this team has really turned the corner, or if it's just a desert mirage.
They play two more games on this homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Dallas Stars... both playoff level teams.
They follow that up with three straight on the road playing the Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota Wild. These three teams are also in the playoff hunt and defeating them would be a feather in the cap of the upstart Coyotes.
It's funny how teams like the Colorado Avalanche can go on a 10-game winning streak after being so terrible last season. Professional sports can be a game of streaks and when you're hot you must ride the wave for all you can get.
Right now the Coyotes may not be "hot", but they're definitely lukewarm. It's a start, and they have got to continue on the path they've burned over the last eight games.
If they stay with the game plan and system of head coach Tocchet and use their valuable speed and youth to the fullest degree, they have a shot to turn this depressing season around.
You don't get too many chances to do that.
It's time for the Arizona Coyotes to grab the recent successes and go with them to the fullest degree.
That means more pesky fore-checking to force errors and gain puck possession, and continued tough defense and goaltending. Those three ingredients have shown to gain points, and that's the way they need to play to move up in the standings.
What's your take on the recent success of the Arizona Coyotes? Are they making a move to improve? Let us know in the comments section below.