March 5, 2012; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Phoenix Coyotes left wing Lauri Korpikoski (28) shoots the puck against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE
The Phoenix Coyotes came out strong, and looked good against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but try as they might they were unable to get the pucks past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury was definitely the difference maker, he made the unbelievable saves when he needed too, and he made the standard saves look easy. With this loss, the Yotes have lost three in a row, and have lost their lead over the Pacific Division to the Dallas Stars, who have the same number of points as Phoenix but have won more games. Before the month started I sat down and mentally picked which games I thought would be the toughest for the Coyotes to win, and this was definitely top of the list. The Coyotes are going to need to bounce back with a win tomorrow against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and start up another streak and hopefully the Vancouver Canucks can get a regulation win over the Stars tomorrow night.
Recently the Coyotes have had a few problems in the first period, they have played sloppy and allowed the other team to get the lead, causing them to chase the game. Although the Penguins got the early lead this game it wasn't because the Yotes were playing another terrible first. They looked a lot tighter, they had some early scoring chances, and they had more shots on goal. The goals that the Penguins had in the first came from odd man rushes, which seems familiar and is definitely going to have to be something that needs to be addressed, but it wasn't from bad play in my opinion.
From what was discussed on the Fox Sports Arizona Ask An Expert Gilbert Brule was sat in favor of Paul Bissonnette. I love Bissonnette he definitely plays a physical game which is useful in slowing down teams and shifting momentum, but if this was the case for tonight's game it may have been the wrong choice. Brule is a goal scorer and say what you want about BizNasty, he isn't the biggest goal scorer.
To me the anchor of the Penguins game tonight was their exceptional tending. A quick look at the stats will show you why. The Coyotes had more shots on goal 37-28, and Fleury stopped all of them but one. He even went out of the net to block a break away from Martin Hanzel which could have easily resulted in the Coyotes getting on the board. The Penguins also played a great second half of the game, they controlled the puck excellently and there were periods where they kept the Coyotes from even getting into the Penguins zone. It was easy to see why they have the record that they do.
Notes From Consol
Our own MyDearestObsession was at the game at the Consol Energy Center and gave some notes from her experience at the game. Here they are:
1. The Coyotes PP started off looking like its old self; it was painful to watch.
2. Marty needs to learn that you cannot skate THROUGH someone, it generally works better if you try skating AROUND them.
3. The middle-aged men next to me decided to sit and hold an entire conversation about how long it's been since the Coyotes became the Coyotes, whether Gretzky was still with them, and when the NHL was going to move the team despite my obvious attempts to insert myself into said conversation. Guess it's hard to be taken seriously when you look young enough to be their daughter...
4. The boys just looked...lackluster tonight. At least until Whitney scored.
5. Not even Jordan Staal can convince me to overcome my fear of needles to donate blood. Not even if he sat there and held my hand while they did it.
6. Boedker whiffed on his shot on an empty net; that was about the third or fourth facepalm of the night.
7. Michalek WOULD score on his old team and any other night, I would be ecstatic for him.
8. I hope BizNasty's ok, I didn't see him on the ice again after he got tangled up with Vitale.
9. After the game, I ran into a family that had just moved to Monroeville from Glendale and they invited me to tag along and meet the players. We ran into BizNasty's dad and got to meet BizNasty himself, Raffi Torres, and Mike Smith. We also bumped into OEL and Boedker in addition to Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang.
Five For Winning
1. Play hungry. The Coyotes have to go into the game knowing that if they don't get a point they will lose their position as leader of the division, something that they do not want this close to the end of the season. At the start of February they were hungry too and look how that turned out. They definitely played better than they had against Calgary and Columbus and I think that this had something to do with them playing hungry. They weren't playing hungry enough to get the win though.
2. Keep it simple. The Yotes don't need to play fancy, they just need to play to win. Hopefully that can work to their advantage. It was a pretty simple game, there weren't any uncharacteristically complicated plays which resulted in turnovers or scoring chances.
3. Score first. In February the Desert Dogs were the comeback kids, in March not so much. Why even put themselves in a position where they need to come back, they should grab an early lead and keep it for the game. Nope.
4. Special Teams. The Penguins have the 5th best power play in the league with 20.2% and the 2nd best penalty kill with 88.9%. The Phoenix penalty kill is going to have to be on top of their game, and maybe Phoenix can get a power play goal in against a team that is probably going to underestimate them. No power play goals on either side so I guess the special teams was okay.
5. Just get a point. We like to say finish in regulation, we don't want to give the other team a point, but this will be the only game where that doesn't matter. Its the last game against a team in the East and with a point they will stay on top, for now. I know it seems like a low bar but against a team like the Penguins it may be the best we can hope for as plans, of course they need to play to win. Nope.
Our Three Stars:
1. Marc-Andre Fleury: What can I say, I don't like it but he was great this game.
2. Ray Whitney: The Wizard gave us a fighting chance at the win, unfortunately we couldn't get the win.
3. Radim Vrbata: Vrbata had the great set up for Whitney and he had a couple of really good scoring chances. The problem was that he couldn't find the back of the net.
Comment of the Night:
Sooner or later the Coyotes are going to need get a win, hopefully that will come tomorrow against the Blue Jackets. They are still strong in the playoff race and still a very strong contender for the Pacific Division Leader. All it is going to take is a couple wins this month and we are back in it.