Ok, so I had some fun with alliteration on that title. It's more fun than I'm going to have writing the rest of this recap. For the Phoenix Coyotes, they actually started out exactly the way they wanted to - with a lot of energy, an early goal and most of the scoring opportunities. The later game issues were as much the product of some sloppy play and tremendous effort by a few Detroit players as anything else. In the end, losing the opening game on the road isn't the end of this series...winning Saturday morning will go a long way to showing that.
I was still at work for almost the entire first half of the game, so I'll base things on what I heard from Bob Heethuis on the radio. Kyle Turris' shot was sick. It was a great play by Shane Doan (shocking) and a great pass by Ray Whitney (again, shocking), but Turris simply got to some open space and let one fly over Jimmy Howard's glove. Huge lift for the team, sapped (some) of the energy from Joe Louis Arena for a short bit.
Then there was the real turning point, an extended 5-on-3 man advantage. From what I could tell, the Coyotes really only managed 1 decent shot on the 5-on-3 which was matched by Detroit with a shorthanded rush by Pavel Datsyuk (more on hm in a bit). By the end of the opportunity, Detroit had all the momentum back in their hands (although my wife does tell me that the Coyotes continued to really dominate the 5-on-5 play for the rest of the period).
But really this touches on the problem for the Coyotes - they had opportunities in the first period to really expand this lead on the power play and they couldn't convert, or even control the play. I've been saying that the power play has looked better of late, but we certainly didn't see it last night as they went 0-for-6 and it came back to haunt the Coyotes.
Also haunting the Coyotes, the play of the two big Russians. Pavel Datsyuk was a beast for the Wings. He led all skaters with 8 SOG, created turnovers all over the ice and scored the first Wings goal that got that second period going. There is a reason I highlighted him in my series preview and he showed up in a big way last night. Also, how did Datsyuk manage to avoid getting his face chopped off by Eric Belanger's skate in the third period. That was downright scary on replay.
Unfortunately on the other end of that spectrum is Datsyuk's good friend, Ilya Bryzgalov. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to bag on Bryz here. He made some good saves and generally controlled his rebounds and what not. However, the weak wrist shot goal by Johan Franzen that the Coyotes never recovered on should never get past Bryz. Is it a horrible turnover by Keith Yandle, yes. But Bryz needs to bail him out there and he was unable to. The point shot on the power play just finds a seam and I'm not sure Bryz saw it at all and Jiri Hudler's shot was almost as sick as Turris' so I'm not posting blame there (that one we can blame on a horrible, awful, no good, very bad line change by the Coyotes defense). No Bryz just wasn't stealing this game for the Coyotes and with the team looking to win games 2-1, they need him to be even better than he was last night.
All this being said, I remain optimistic. A few bullet points of what I liked about the Phoenix effort:
- Kyle Turris, Andrew Ebbett and Mikkel Boedker, in fairly limited ice time, brought a lot of energy and spark to the game with Turris scoring his first NHL playoff goal in his first playoff game;
- Shane Doan and Ray Whitney continued to play tremendous hockey and Doan exhibited a lot of that wrecking ball mentality that is going to get in the heads of these Detroit players (I would say it already is as Abdelkader took that ridiculous interference penalty in the third because of Doan's grit and determination);
- Radim Vrbata - led the Coyotes with 6 shots on goal and scored the Coyotes second goal. He can be streaky and getting him sniping may be the advantage the Coyotes need;
- Rostislav Klesla - didn't take any crap from Todd Bertuzzi and got the big d-bag to drop his gloves and then Klesla dropped him. LOVE IT!!!
Plenty of areas for Tippett to look to improve before Saturday's matinee particularly breaking out of the zone and clearing pucks safely, closing gaps to prevent odd man rushes and shoring up the special teams.
There's certainly no reason to panic after one game - last year Detroit jumped out to an early lead in game 1 here, only to lose before an energized crowd and then won game 2 and eventually the series. Coyotes could do exactly the same.