The Phoenix Coyotes continue to look nothing like the team that started this season in San Jose all for the better. From the opening faceoff, the Coyotes were all over the Winnipeg Jets, making them look (as one tweet I read said) even Thrashier than the Thrashers were last year. Many people have predicted that the Jets would struggle this year, and after watching this game, I can honestly say that I agree. While there were moments of life, and there are a few bright spots in the lineup, there is a reason the Jets don't have a point yet this season, starting 0-3-0.
I think we can sum up what this game was all about with the first goal. Puck comes behind the net where Dustin Byfuglien (likely at a playing weight of approximately 260 lbs) hears the "footsteps" of 5'9" Ray Whitney and fans on a fairly routine d-to-d pass, which Whitney promptly intercepts, passes to a wide open Daymond Langkow in the slot and Langkow makes no mistake roofing one over Chris Mason just 36 seconds into the game.
More defensive issues and strong forecheck and pressure to the net led to the second goal of the game from Oliver Ekman-Larsson simply firing one at the net from the side boards past an out of position Mason. OEL would add his second of the night on a one time laser beam on a delayed penalty call. A beautiful play that started with a chip in from Taylor Pyatt to Boyd Gordon and a simply perfect feed to set up the shot from OEL. Coach Tippett had high praise for the kid during his post game press conference and it was well deserved. OEL has always shown that he has offensive talent, but the big change in his game this year is that he is playing a smarter game, jumping into the play at the right times, while being stronger in his own end. I really like seeing him out there with Adrian Aucoin as they are a good match for each other.
Mike Smith continues to rebound form the horror of opening night with an 18 save performance, including stopping a penalty shot attempt from Nik Antropov, while only allowing a single goal on a deflection by Andrew Ladd that he had no chance on. There was a scary play later in the game where Smith went to play a puck behind the net and was hit awkwardly by Evander Kane, who was called for interference before the Jets could put the puck into the open net as Smith was sprawled behind the cage.
Ray Whitney scored a powerplay goal on a great feed from Martin Hanzal earlier in the third period that gave us our final score of 4-1. While the Coyotes took a few unfortunate penalties early, the penalty kill continues to thrive since the first game with another perfect performance.
A final point, the crowd at Jobing.com Arena was outstanding with an over capacity total of 17,132 in attendance. And don't let any reports from north of the border fool you, there were very few empty seats in the arena and it was at least 80-85% Coyotes fans in attendance and the Winnipeg fans left with their tails between their legs. I appreciate that a number bought suites for the game to avoid the hostile environs and the revenue will only help our club. I would almost guess that the Chicago fans that will be in attendance on Tuesday will make more of an impression than the "vast hordes" of Winnipeggers did tonight.
Comment of the night, three stars and a look ahead after the jump...
Our Three Stars
1. Oliver Ekman-Larrson - had two goals and was solid in his own end all game.
2. Shane Doan - had a pair of assists and was all over the ice controlling the play; he didn't score his 300th NHL goal, but he came awfully close a number of times.
3. Mike Smith - wasn't too challenged facing only 18 shots (and the penalty shot), but was solid and survived that big collision to close out the game and winning his first game of the season.
Comment of the Night
I want one for every mother-f***er who told us we didn’t deserve a team
I want two for the prick who told us none of us can skate
I want three for every smug canadian who told us that Hockey can’t work in the sunbelt
I want four for everyone who doubted this team
I want five for those of us howling after every goal.
The Chicago Blackhawks come in to Glendale on Tuesday night after losing tonight in a shootout to the Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks look almost identical to the Coyotes in the standings at 2-1-1 with a shootout loss and a +2 goal differential on the season. It is always a fun night at the arena with the 'Hawks in town so expect another raucous crowd as the Coyotes look to win their third consecutive game.