In anticipation of tonight's game between the Blackhawks and the Coyotes, Jaime Eisner (@JmeEisner) from Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) was nice enough to answer some of my questions about the team. Jaime also asked some questions of me and you can read those at Five For Howling or here.
Jen: The Coyotes started out the season doing very well, but have hit a bit of a low. What seems to be the cause of the recent problems?
Jaime: Too many turnovers and the inability to sustain high-level of play from period to period. The Coyotes are very hard to figure out. Wins against Los Angeles and Pittsburgh show they can beat any team in NHL. Losses against Buffalo and Dallas show they can lose against any team as well. For years the Yotes had a tendency to play up or down to their opponents, but the swings in their level of play appear greater this season. In their last two losses, for example, the Coyotes dominated possession in the first period only to come out of the dressing room and have circles skated around them. The axiom "no lead is safe" fits this season's Coyotes team like a glove. Phoenix has lost far too many games they've held leads in. Heck, they almost blew a 4-0 lead to Edmonton a couple weeks back. They are consistently inconsistent, from game to game and period to period.
Jen: Did any players step up and impress you with their play during Shane Doan's lengthy absence due to his illness?
Jaime: While no one directly stepped into Doan's role on the wing and started tearing it up, center Antoine Vermette continued his best season to date with the Coyotes. In 12 games without Doan, Vermette scored six goals, including a hat trick in Ottawa before Christmas. The 31-year-old is having one of the best seasons of his career scoring 21-14-35 in 56 games while winning 55.9 percent of his faceoffs and posted a positive Corsi percentage (50.2% 5v5). Remarkably, he's doing it against tough competition and unfavorable zone starts (O/DSt% - 43.6). Vermette is undoubtedly the Coyotes' MVP.
Jen: Blackhawks fans that pay attention to the AHL were disappointed to see Rob Klinkhammer go to a different team. How has he been playing for the Coyotes?
Jaime: As inconsistent as the team. After he scored four goals and six points in October, some fans were clamoring for him to be the heir to Shane Doan's throne. He's scored five goals since and has spent a few games in the press box as a healthy scratch. Overall, Klinkhammer is a solid bottom-six forward who is setting career-highs in every category. Klinkhammer also may be the most Phoenix Coyotes player that ever was, which you can read about here.
My thanks go out to Jaime for taking the time to answer my questions. The Coyotes are hosting a special event before the game tonight with the members of the Miracle on Ice team to honor the Olympians from both teams. Be sure to check out Jaime's coverage of the events on Twitter and on the Five For Howling site.