With each game of this young season, the Phoenix Coyotes have shown significant improvement from the horror in San Jose to the disappointment in Dallas and finally with a definitively solid performance in Nashville. For the first 30 minutes, the Coyotes could do no wrong. With many feeling that it was important for the Coyotes to get in the win column before the home opener on Saturday, there was nothing to complain about in the first half of the game. For the rest of the game, there were a lot of positives, but the Coyotes probably played a bit too defensively and Jason LaBarbera was forced to make more good saves than you would like while holding a big lead.
During the first two games the Coyotes had no even strength goals, so naturally the Coyotes scored four tonight and added an empty netter for good measure. Thirteen different Coyotes scored a point and only Shane Doan had more than one. Talk about pack mentality. Jason LaBarbera, earning his first start of the year, made a strong case to get a second start at the home opener. The two goals allowed were absolute blasts where there was an unfortunate turnover in the defensive zone and the Preds just did not miss.
Rostislav Klesla had a really positive game finishing with a +4 and an assist. Paul Bissonnette didn't play much and took an unfortunate penalty in the first period, but when Brian McGratton and Jordin Tootoo tried to get BizNasty to be undisciplined in the second, he showed his extreme maturity and instead drew a penalty call on Tootoo. Biz isn't going to score a ton of points, but he brings some necessary grit to this squad and has shown a propensity for drawing penalties. Considering that our power play has been improving and looking better this year than in the past, what more can you ask for.
But I have to say, kudos to the line changes that Coach Tippett made moving Mikkel Boedker to the line with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. Boedker responded by scoring a beautiful goal and that unit's defensive play in the third was spectacular. Taylor Pyatt on a unit with Boyd Gordon and Lauri Korpikoski also looked more comfortable and Korpi also added his first goal of the year. David Schlemko and Ray Whitney also had first period goals.
Pekka Rinne looked about as vulnerable as I've ever seen him on the ice with an uncharacteristic propensity for giving up big rebounds and sliding all over the place. With the Coyotes taking the play to the Predators early, we didn't see the typically defensive struggle that most Phoenix-Nashville games have been during recent years.David Legwand had a pair of assists on the goals from Ryan Suter and Colin Wilson.
One concern was the limited play from Keith Yandle in the third after taking the hit from Tootoo in the second. Hopefully there is nothing wrong and it is just a precaution to give him a rest while the team had a fairly big lead.
Bullet Point Notes From the Game:
- Dave Tippett has mixed the lines a bit moving Mikkel Boedker on to the wing with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata; Taylor Pyatt is out there with Boyd Gordon and Lauri Korpikoski.
- Nashville had the first good opportunity, but the puck hopped over the stick of the forward (not sure who) that was driving in.
- Rostislav Klesla jumps into the play and takes a feed from Boedker that Pekka Rinne turns aside.
- Rinne makes a ghastly turnover, but Daymond Langkow can't put the puck in the gaping net from the extreme angle.
- Coyotes going on the first power play of the game as Niclas Bergfors sits two for high sticking.
- Coyotes can't convert on the power play, but they continue to control the play and after Rinne leaves a juicy rebound, David Schlemko slides it under him for the Coyotes first even strength goal of the year. 1-0 Coyotes!
- On a break-in, Langkow feeds a perfect pass to Ray Whitney who absolutely crushes a one-timer past Rinne to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead!
- Jason LaBarbera makes his first really great save of the night stopping Bergfors from the slot as the Predators up the tempo and attack the goal.
- More rebound issues for Rinne as he leaves a juicy one on the far side off of a Pyatt shot and Korpikoski flies through and backhands it into the net for his first of the season...3-0 Coyotes!
- Coyotes play their best period of the year and have a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard and a 16-7 advantage in shots. They are completely controlling the pace of play and have silenced the crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
- Crowd wants a penalty on Klesla for interference, and they might have a point, but refs are letting them play. There's not a lot going on, but the Coyotes do take a goaltender interference penalty as Paul Bissonnette goes barreling through the crease and it's an easy call even with Rinne at the top of his creas
- Coyotes PK was very solid although the Predators did a good job of controlling the puck, shots were all from the outside.
- Jordin Tootoo makes a little run at Keith Yandle, but of course, there's nothing called and although Yandle is a little winded by the hit to the chest, he seems ok on the bench.
- Another great play by the Coyotes bringing pressure and Hanzal feeds Boedker coming across the goal mouth and Boedker makes a great play kicking the puck up to his stick and putting it past a sprawled Rinne. 4-0 Coyotes!
- Tootoo takes a penalty for slashing BizNasty, who smartly doesn't react. Biz doesn't get enough praise for his discipline and this is the epitome of how he understands his role. Bring energy, force the other team off their game, don't fight when you're winning 4-0.
- On the ensuing power play, though, the Coyotes take their foot completely off the gas and let Nashville set up in the offensive zone and Ryan Suter blasts one from the point past LaBarbera for a short handed goal. 4-1 Coyotes.
- Crowd is definitely alive in Nashville as the Coyotes power play has a particularly ineffective go of it and the Coyotes need to just buckle down and bring this one to the intermission at 4-1 and regroup during the break.
- Derek Morris loses an edge and has to take down the player to prevent a 2-0 breakaway and he'll go to the box for interference with less than a minute left in the second period. Coyotes do a good job killing the first 53 seconds and it'll carry over to the third.
- Coyotes let up a bit much at the end of the period, but are still controlling this game and lead in shots 24-11 after two periods.
- Nashville comes out strong on the powerplay, but Barbs makes a few big stops and forces a faceoff. A few more good saves and good pressure, and the penalty is done and the Coyotes have survived.
- Despite some really good shifts from Hanzal-Vrbata-Boedker and puck management, Nashville takes advantage of a quick miscue and David Legwand feeds Colin Wilson who drives one past Barbs. 4-2 Coyotes.
- Crowd is energized, Coyotes are playing too tentative and Nashville is buzzing firing shots on net at will. LaBarbera weathering the storm for now, but Coyotes need to get refocused quick.
- Although playing fantastic, Martin Hanzal takes a tough luck holding the stick penalty that is the classic Coyotes penalty of last year and the early part of this one. Nashville to the power play down 2 with almost 6 to play.
- On the kill, Barbs makes a great save on a Legwand deflection of a Shea Weber slap-pass. HUGE save to keep the score 4-2.
- Coyotes survive the power play, but Barbs is making great saves on deflections and everything Nashville is throwing at him. 93 seconds to go and Barry Trotz takes his timeout. HUGE defensive faceoff coming up right now.
- Captain Coyote Shane Doan flips one from his own blueline towards the empty net and it makes it up the ice and in to seal the win for the Desert Dogs here. 5-2 Coyotes!!!
- With that win, LaBarbera will donate his first (of hopefully many) $420 to the Pat Tillman Foundation and may have earned the start in the home opener.
Our Three Stars
1. Jason LaBarbera - 23 saves, some of the great variety especially in the third period.
2. Shane Doan - he'll get his shot at #300 against the "Jets" which looks like you couldn't write this script more perfectly.
3. Mikkel Boedker - scored a very pretty goal and really stood out with his increased ice time.
Five For Winning
1. The Coyotes need to limit scoring chances for the Craig Smith, David Legwand, and Colin Wilson line. Their line has been involved in 6 of Nashville’s 7 goals so far this season. Legwand has two assists, Wilson has a goal, but in the end the Coyotes limited their chances and didn't let them control the play.
2. The Coyotes need to score at even strength. All four of their goals so far this season have been with the man advantage. 4 goals at even strength; 'nuff said.
3. Stay out of the box. Nashville's power play was excellent (42.9%) in their first two games. Coyotes only take 3 penalties and kill off each. That unit gets better each game.
4. Bodies in front. If Rinne sees the puck, he saves it. Well, Rinne was definitely off tonight, but the Coyotes did do a good job of driving to the net and creating havoc. Both the Korpikoski and Boedker goals were a result of this.
5. The Coyotes bottom two lines need to score a goal. With the Preds likely lacking depth and/or hurting up front tonight, its a perfect opportunity for the Yotes bottom two lines to assert themselves. 13 players on the scoresheet with goals from Schlemko, Whitney, Korps, Boedker and Doan - perfect.
Comment of the Night
-Gildo (responding to how hard Whitney's shot was)
Saturday night, home opener against the Winnipeg Thrashers. I don't think we need to add anything to the hype here. It's a be there or be square type of game...see you in Glendale!