Less than 24 hours after losing a heartbreaking division battle in a shootout, the Phoenix Coyotes were faced with unenviable task of facing the top team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues. The Yotes were playing for their playoff lives, while St. Louis was playing to keep their lead in the West and best the New York Rangers for the President's Trophy. As happened in much of the teams prior meetings this season, the Blues and their defense ruled the evening and St. Louis won the game by a final score of 4-0. Kent Hitchcock's system may not be scintillating, but is damn sure effective, especially against the Desert Dogs.
The Blues spent a good bit of the first period on the penalty kill due to taking penalties that could be kindly called 'unforced'. However, the Yotes 30th ranked power play not surprisingly didn't make St. Louis pay for taking four penalties in the opening frames. The Blues' Chris Stewart missed a golden opportunity the break the scoreless tie when he missed a half open net by ringing a shot in close off the right post. The period ended with the Blues on the power play due to Antoine Vermette having to take a hooking call on a St. Louis short handed opportunity.
The second period began with 57 seconds of Vermette's penalty left. The Blues only needed 33 seconds of the time as Alex Pietrangleo scored. Oliver Ekman-Larsson took the fourth delay of game penalty midway through the period. The Blue failed to convert on the opportunity. The rest of the period (game) was turnover central.
Phoenix came out of the locker room with energy to start the third. However, St. Louis quickly rebounded and the game turned back into a clogged up turnover festival. A Martin Hanzal high sticking penalty led to a quick power play goal by the Blues's Davis Backes. At this point the game was essentially over. Bruiser Ryan Reaves and Patrick Berglund added insult to injury with goals later in the final frame.
- Nice job by the crowd to stand and cheer when it was announced Derek Morris was playing in his 1,000th NHL game during a break in the action.
- The Blues defensive discipline was as impressive as it was the last time they played in Glendale back in December of last year.
- St. Louis has only allowed 147 goals in 76 games.
- The Coyotes continue to struggle with teams who clog the neutral zone. This issue along with the power play are the two items that need the most attention this coming off-season.
- The power play was the biggest disappointment of the game. If the Yotes had just scored on one of their PP opportunities in the 1st period the game could have turned out differently.
- If there was one Coyote who stood out tonight it was Oliver Ekman-Larsson. His play along the boards and with his stick continues to impress.
- Goaltender Brian Elliot had another good game for the Blues, however he only faced 20 shots on goal and a handful of scoring chances. He would have rated a star on the evening if his evening hadn't been made so easy by the play of his teammates.
- The Coyotes are in a tough spot. The only game they have left against another team in the Western playoff chase in Thursday night against the Sharks. They will likely need to grab 2 points from Thursday's game and then grab 6 points in their remaining 4 games, including a game in St. Louis, in order to make the playoffs.
Five For Winning
1. Get the first goal. Playing a trapping team from behind is not what you want to do. The Yotes should still be in game mode having played less than 24 hours before while the Blues have been resting since last Thursday. Phoenix should be able to get a goal or two early if they start things the way they did last night in San Jose. St. Louis scored the first goal.
2. Get the puck in deep. If nothing else the Coyotes need to get the puck in the Blues end as often as possible. Obviously, teams always want to do this, but its even more important against a team like the Blues. They force neutral zone turnovers constantly and generate their offense off said turnovers. The Coyotes struggled to get the puck deep with any consistency.
3. Screen the Goalie. Brian Elliot has been having a career season. Don't expect him to give up any soft ones. The same goes for Jaroslav Halak on the off chance he plays tonight. The Coyotes didn't seem to even have the opportunity to do so for a large chunk of the game. In order to screen the goalie you need to possess the puck in the offensive zone for more than 2 seconds.
4. Handle the fatigue. Playing two games in less than 24 hours is hard enough. Playing the second game against a rested, highly structured opponent is even harder. Coach Tippett and his staff are going to have to carefully manage guy's minutes tonight. Their task is made harder by the fact they won't be able to rely on guys like Shane Doan and Adrian Aucoin which means putting AHL call ups in situations they would likely prefer not to. Phoenix appeared to have more trouble with the Blues defense than they did with fatigue.
5. Draw Penalties. Last night against San Jose the Yotes only drew one penalty and frankly that one was just a bad call by the referee. If the Coyotes power play is ever going to get on track it needs more opportunities. I wouldn't say the Yotes did much to draw penalties as the Blues did to draw their own in many cases.
Our Three Stars
1. Alex Pietrangelo -1 goal, 1 assist. He now has 5 points in 3 games this season against Phoenix. He's the best defensemen no one ever talks about.
2. David Backes - 1 goal, 1 assist. He was a force every time he stepped on the ice.
3. Kevin Shattenkirk - 3 assists. The former Avs first round pick continues to impress in just his second NHL season.
Comment of the Night
For St. Louis reaction to the game, head over to St. Louis Game Time.