Truth be told, this is another game where the Phoenix Coyotes didn't have their best effort. Could they have been looking past the Edmonton Oilers towards tonight's match-up against Vancouver? Possibly. Could they have just looked a little off because the game was played in such a paceless manner with the Coyotes being whistled for ten penalties in the game? Possibly. Regardless, the Coyotes were able to survive their fairly disappointing effort with solid goaltending and timely goal scoring and walked out of Rexall Place with a 3-1 win. With the win and the results of the other games last night, the Coyotes are now sitting in 4th position in the Western Conference.
We often like to say that the Coyotes roll out the kid line of Brett MacLean-Kyle Turris-Mikkel Boedker, but the Oilers are rolling with a kid team for the most part. The Oilers have only five players over thirty years old on their entire roster right now, and last night saw a few guys making their NHL debut. Plus, Edmonton is being forced to play down the stretch without some of their best players, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky all out with injury. The Oilers played the game with good energy and forced Ilyz Bryzgalov to play a great game and make 35 saves on the night.
On the offensive side, the Coyotes got another goal from Lee Stempniak, who may be heating up at the right moment for the playoff drive. Ray Whitney scored a goal that was called a goal on the ice before being reviewed and seeing no conclusive evidence to overturn. Later Radim Vrbata, playing a strong game despite still missing regular center Martin Hanzal, would score on a power play to seal the victory.
The story of this game was penalties however. The Coyotes plod a steady trail to the box all night with some very deserved (Mikkel Boedker's board was as clear cut as they come, a too many men infraction), and some highly questionable (Stempniak's "elbow" on Linus Omark; Whitney's "high stick" on Paajarvi). Despite all of the penalties on the Desert Dogs, the call that will get the most attention is the rarely called diving penalty that Omark got whistled for leading to the Vrbata power play goal. Omark swung behind the net, and was cut off by a Coyotes defenseman. Omark looked like he would get past cleanly, but he "dove" to his knees before getting back up and the ref watching the play whistled him for the dive.
At the time, the Oilers were playing with all the momentum having just cut the lead to 2-1 and the Coyotes were seemingly getting called for a penalty at every turn, which only made the call the more shocking. My only thought is that the refs had seen a replay of Omark's acting to sell the elbow on Stempniak and this was the "make-up" call for that. It was an iffy call, but the Coyotes did the best thing possible and made it pay. As much as the Coyotes weren't always the best team on the ice last night, they did kill 8 of 9 penalties and that will get you a long way towards a victory.
BULLET POINT NOTES FROM GAME:
- Lauri Korpikoski makes a great play using his speed to get behind the Edmonton defense and then throws a no look pass in front of the net that Shane Doan blasts off a Oilers defender and over the net.
- Jordan Eberle makes a spectacular toe drag move to get around Rostislav Klesla who takes him down along the way for a tripping minor. Eberle still gets a shot off though and Ilya Bryzgalov has to make a pretty solid save.
- Killing off the first penalty apparently isn't enough for the Coyotes, so Lee Stempniak takes one for elbowing on a play far away from the puck. No excuse for things like this, unlike Klesla's take down. On the replay, Linus Omark shows that his showmanship isn't limited to the shootout as he throws his head back on a clean check to draw this call...
- Coyotes get their first power play as Ryan Jones takes a slashing call. New look Coyotes power play takes the ice with Doan playing a more down-low position and Mikkel Boedker at the point.
- Coyotes fail to create much on the power play and a Michal Rozsival penalty has them returning to shorthanded play late in the period.
- Stempniak may be trying to start a streak as he takes a great shovel pass from Korpikoski right to the net and slides it through Nikolai Khabibulin. Great effort by Eric Belanger as well grinding along the wall to get the puck to Korpi.
- Still too many penalties as the Coyotes get called for too many men on the ice early in the second period. Edmonton is getting plenty of PP practice, but the Coyotes PK is getting the job done well.
- Ray Whitney takes a bizarre high sticking penalty and the Coyotes are shorthanded again (fifth time in the first half of the game). Oilers force a turnover from Korpikoski and it creates a decent scoring chance on the power play.
- Whitney gets out of the box and takes a great feed from Radim Vrbata and powers his way to the net and tries to force one through Khabibulin. The call on the ice is a goal, but the puck seems to completely vanish on the video and there was little on-ice celebration. Since the call on the ice is a goal and there is no conclusive video the other way it's a good goal. 2-0 Coyotes even if they are not playing nearly well enough for that lead.
- Another penalty as Brett MacLean gets called for a fairly weak trip way behind the play. It's not a great call, but with the way they are calling penalties against the Coyotes, they need to stop looking at Oilers player's sideways. Thankfully, Edmonton is living up to its 30th PP ranking in the league.
- Despite not playing a particularly good 40 minutes so far, the Coyotes have a 2-0 lead after two periods.
- More penalties, but good to see some passion from Eric Belanger defending Shane Doan which leads to some 4-on-4 action as Andrew Cogliano joins Belanger in the bench. Adrian Aucoin takes a slash and the Coyotes have a real power play.
- With Cogliano coming out of the box, the 'Yotes give up a breakaway during which Keith Yandle takes a slash at Cogliano and a penalty shot is called. Cogliano tries to go 5-hole, but Bryzgalov closes the door.
- Magnus Paajarvi gives a great feed to Cogliano in front of the net shortly thereafter, but he can't handle the feed and Bryz is able to make another stop.
- Belanger heads back to the penalty box for another minor penalty. This is opportunity number 7 for the Oilers...not a good effort staying out of penalty trouble tonight by the Coyotes.
- On lucky number seven, the Oilers finally cash in as Paajarvi sends a wrist shot through traffic and past Bryz to cut the lead in half. Teemu Hartikainen gets an assist in his NHL debut. 2-1 Coyotes.
- Boedker takes a very silly penalty for boarding as he pretty clearly pushes a guy head first into the dasher boards. Edmonton is buzzing right now and the Coyotes need to do something to kill this momentum ASAP.
- I wonder if the refs made a note from earlier because on what looked like it could've been called a trip behind the net, Linus Omark is called for diving and the Coyotes never-ending run to the penalty box is momentarily halted.
- After the questionable call, the Coyotes double the Oilers' anger by converting quickly on the power play as Radim Vrbata rips one past Khabibulin with an assist from Doan to extend his point streak. 3-1 Coyotes.
- As a possible make-up call, Klesla is called for closing his hand on the puck (another rarely-called penalty). Ninth time shorthanded by the Coyotes after only being shorthanded ten times over the previous three games. Hope they are getting it out of their system before tomorrow night.
- With the goalie pulled, Bryz gets run over and after the whistle Eberle puts it in the net, but it is immediately waved off.
FIVE FOR WINNING:
- Not take these two points for granted. The Oilers are a proud franchise and they would like nothing else to spoil the Coyotes' success. Can't really say the Coyotes didn't take it for granted as they got out-played most of the night, but they got the two points.
- Not to look forward to Vancouver. That's tomorrow. See response above.
- Continue to work on their specialty teams. This is the current leak in their game that has yet to be solved. Against this opponent they can exploit the Oilers 30th ranked PP and 28th ranked PK. Not a bad special teams game, despite taking too many penalties. Coyotes finished 1 for 4 on the power play and 8 of 9 on the PK.
- Work on limiting turnovers. It's a problem everywhere, but especially in their defensive zone as they continually pass the puck from the corners to the middle of the ice - right in prime scoring position for the attacking forwards. Good teams have been exploiting this tendency. Not their best effort as there were a few big turnovers that gave the Oilers scoring opportunities, but Bryz held strong.
- Use their aggressive forecheck and take advantage of the porous defense. Edmonton ranks 27th in plus/minus with a minus-26. They are second to last in the NHL with a minus-20 at home. They played a pretty flat game, but did turn up the pressure right before the Stempniak and Whitney goal. If they had played that way the whole game, and stayed out of the box, it might've been a more comfortable victory.
OUR THREE STARS
1. Radim Vrbata - scores a power play goal and has a great pass to set up Whitney's breakaway tally.
2. Ilya Bryzgalov - 35 saves (far more than he should have to make against the Oilers).
3. Vernon Fiddler - going a bit off book, but Fiddy was a beast tonight playing over 8 minutes shorthanded for the Coyotes and winning 68% of his faceoffs, primarily in the defensive zone.
COMMENT OF THE NIGHT
-TimmyHate [obviously - Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!!!!]
311 comments with me leading the way again with 67 despite losing my internet connection for a while...your full leaderboard: