The Phoenix Coyotes knew that if they were going to have any success in today's game against the Red Wings, they needed to come out with urgency and do a much better job with special teams play. Although the Coyotes would eventually start to light the lamp on the power play, the early deficit they dug was too great, and they dropped the second game of the series to Detroit 4-3.
Regardless of which team one cheers for, it was not a great night for the officials who were probably a bit too involved in this game throughout. In the end, Detroit's run of power plays in the first probably cancels out Phoenix's run in the third, but it would be nice to get at least a bit more 5-on-5 action in these playoff series. Judging from what I've seen in the other games as well, though, this is not a unique situation for us.
In a microcosm, this game was a bit about the two leaders of their respective squads going to work as Pavel Datsyuk paced Detroit with a four point effort (1 G, 3 A) and Shane Doan did the same for the Coyotes with his three point game (2 G, 1 A). Doan was even named one of the official three stars by the Detroit media, which is saying something about how effective he was imposing his will on this game, even if it was just a bit too little in the end.
While all three Coyotes goals came with the man advantage, they did play better overall in the second half of the game both at 5-on-5 and the power play. Heck, they even managed to play effective 4-on-4 hockey which has been a nightmare for them at times this season. The real problem was still the PK, which allowed two early Detroit tallies on screened shots. On both of Detroit's first two goals, Ilya Bryzgalov didn't even see the shot before it was behind him which is simply not going to get the job done. Credit Tomas Holmstrom for parking himself in that position and providing the screens and some good shots by Datsyuk and Rafalski didn't hurt either.
Another great individual effort by Datsyuk forced the rebound that led to the Darren Helm goal which capped off an ugly first period for the Coyotes. Keith Yandle got caught a bit flat footed and made a play for the puck, but Datsyuk deftly flipped it up and over Yandle to himself and made a between the legs shot on Bryz that was turned aside and Helm cashed in the rebound as three Coyotes players watched on. Other than take a penalty, I'm not sure what Yandle could've done differently on the play, but he'd make amends setting up goals for the rest of the night as he finished with an assist on all three Coyotes tallies.
A few more notes in bullet point form
- Not sure what the Coyotes should be doing with Holmstrom in the crease, but the plan of just pushing at him clearly wasn't working this morning. Basically, by doing that, you force Bryz to see around Holmstrom AND Ed Jovanovski or Adrian Aucoin and that's just nearly impossible. I think rotating in to bump Holmstrom between the D is probably the best call while otherwise letting Bryz work it a bit. The refs have called more penalties on Holmstrom this year than in the past for goaltender interference so leave him to his own devices to back into Bryz and take penalties.
- Johan Franzen took a nasty spill in the first period and didn't look better for the wear and tear after 21 stitches. I heard that he said Doan should've been thrown out, but I don't know what he's talking about because it looked like Doan simply leaned into him, he lost an edge and fell awkwardly. I did enjoy Babcock on the bench asking him if he'd put a visor on...that was good TV at a time when there was little about the game that was enjoyable to watch.
- Ilya Bryzgalov got stronger and stronger as the game went on, as did the team in general. Hopefully this is the momentum they will build off of for Monday night's game in Glendale. There's no reason getting too down losing the first two on the road; until you drop a game on home ice, it's just one that you need to steal in Detroit.
- Good to see Radim Vrbata get his second goal in as many games - they need him to keep lighting the lamp, but it would be nice to see some other guys like Vernon Fiddler, Taylor Pyatt and Lee Stempniak stepping it up a bit as well.
- Keith Yandle had a few good assists on the power play, but he continues to remind me a bit too much of the way he played last year and the year before. Like I said about Bryz earlier this week, he doesn't have to do it by himself and he can't keep trying to force everything. Ditto, Ray Whitney.
- I know a bunch of Detroit commenters were ragging on Doan putting himself in the net twice while failing to score. I'm guessing they are not talking after this game. He couldn't get the Coyotes back all the way, but that was some inspired hockey from Captain Coyote.
- Finally, on the Martin Hanzal penalty that led to the first Detroit PP goal, I'm confused. I'm not confused at all about the rule, and it's definitely a penalty, without a doubt. What I'm not sure about is whether Hanzal hears that whistle and knows that's an icing. I've been watching Hanzal since he came to his first rookie camp with the team in 2006 and I don't remember him ever making a play like that and it doesn't strike me as in his personality to do so. Was the whistle not as audible on the ice as it sounded on the TV; did someone call something out that led Hanzal to believe it wasn't going to be an icing call. I have no idea, but it struck me as such an out-of-character move by Hanzal that I figured I'd mention it.
With the series heading back to Glendale, it's on the Coyotes to get the job done at home. Hopefully the hometown fans are ready to bring the noise on Monday night and drown out what will undoubtedly be a 25-30% Wings audience.