CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 29: Martin Hanzal #11 of the Phoenix Coyotes tries to dig the puck out along the boards as a stick from Andrew Burnette #15 of the Chicago Blackhawks flies in at the United Center on November 29, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Coyotes have played well in Chicago recently, and much to Blackhawks' fans chagrin, it was no different tonight at the United Center. Playing their first home game since November 13, Chicago came out of the gate pretty quickly, but after weathering the initial storm, the Coyotes took over the play and got this short road trip off to a phenomenal start.
Mike Smith just missed out on recording his second consecutive shutout as Patrick Sharp would record the lone Hawks goal with under 1 minute left in the game. Regardless, Smith was dominant when Chicago pressured him including phenomenal third period saves on Daniel Carcillo and Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks outshot Phoenix 25-24 for the game, but it really didn't seem that way watching it.
Offensively, the veterans led the way with multi-point performances from Ray Whitney (1G, 2A), Daymond Langkow (1G, 1A), Shane Doan (1G, 1A) and Radim Vrbata (1G, 1A). For Vrbata, he continues the unbelievable tear he has been on for the past 14 games as he now leads the team with 11 goals and 19 points. Langkow has returned from his bereavement leave by tallying 4 points in 2 games.
Although the goals from Vrbata and Langkow were classic junk goals with pucks sliding through Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, the goals by Doan and Whitney were really quite gorgeous. Doan scored to cap a three man rush with passes from Langkow to Doan to Mikkel Boedker before Boedker dropped a pass to Doan in the right circle for an absolute blast. Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata worked a terrific cycle game in the corner before 3 defenders committed to Vrbata and Whitney was left alone in front to pot a top shelf shot over Crawford from a behind the net feed from Hanzal. That spelled the end of the night for Crawford and it looked like Ray Emery would be treated to much the same after a blast from Keith Yandle rang off the post and in, but the goal was waived off by the refs due to coincidental penalties from Langkow and Carcillo.
To me, against the best team in the Western Conference, this was the best effort of the season from the Coyotes. Although the disaster against Vancouver last Friday left many fans feeling disgruntled, it has certainly sparked 6 solid periods from the Desert Dogs and that's nothing to complain about.
Our Three Stars
1. Ray Whitney - three points, and just was dangling all over the ice; the Wizard shone out there tonight.
2. Daymond Langkow - got the scoring started, had an assist on the Doan goal, didn't take any crap from Daniel Carcillo, a great performance.
3. Mike Smith - the offense was great, but when challenged, Smith answered the bell and kept all the momentum on Phoenix's side.
Comment of the Night
Crap, another last minute goal given up by the
#Coyotes. It must be the 1 minute remaining announcement acting like a pavlovian response.
-I'm cheating because this just cracked me up too much from Ben's Twitter feed.
The Coyotes return to the ice Thursday night when they play their first game in Winnipeg since the return of the Jets. The Jets are playing better of late, although they lost tonight to Ottawa by a 6-4 score, but they are still just a glorified AHL squad that shouldn't really pose much trouble for the Coyotes if they play their game. Considering how focused the team has looked the last two games and how motivated they should be in front of what I expect will be a very hostile Winnipeg crowd, I expect the Coyotes to be able to handle the Jets as they did in the home opener.