NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 06: Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 and Adrian Aucoin #33 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrate a goal against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on December 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Greetings Phoenix Coyotes fans. Just like the Desert Dogs, the Roundtable is back for the Round Two. In this edition, we briefly look back at the Hawks series and then look ahead to the series with the Predators which begins this evening. The illustrious Yotesgurl joins in the fun this week. Check out her website and follow her caps locked expositions on Twitter.
How did the current version of the Coyotes do what their predecessors could not by winning a playoff series?
Yotesgurl: There isn't one thing that was the missing link. It turns out that we didn't lose anything last summer that couldn't be replaced or upgraded. Going into the season, that did not seem to be the case at all, with Bryz seeming like such a huge loss. Mike Smith surpasses Bryz. Boyd Gordon more than fills the heart/soul Fiddler role and is more of a warrior than we could have hoped for (although I don't know who now fills that position in Yandle's heart). OEL not only filled Jovo's spot, but, can push an argument that he is as big of a surprise as Mike Smith. Yes, he was a big draft pick, but to go from his time/performance last year to being such a key cog in our D now, is amazing. You can't overlook the difference Jim Playfair has had with our D and in Oliver's development. Kudos to him and to Oliver for putting in the summer work. Adding Vermette looks huge now because he had a really good series and adds that needed depth at center. Chipchurra and Brule were also new adds that put in some serious work. While I liked Stempniak, a gritty, playoff grinder he was not.
Since I am a psychologist, I can't overlook the difference a new opponent made for us, as well. Those Winged Wheels and their fans had seeped into our psyche a bit and a fresh start against a fresh opponent went a long way for us. Our PK saved our behinds quite a bit and the Hawks having an even more anemic power play than us was key. After a rough series, I can only hope that we will soon be able to once again join together, PHX and CHI, in celebrating that Red Wings Suck.
The Dude: I think it was a perfect storm that allowed the Coyotes to win the playoff series this season. First, you've got to give it up to the acquisition of Mike Smith and his astonishing play during the regular season and into the playoffs, his consistent and unbelievable performance in net definitely had a big impact. I would say that picking up Antoine Vermette and Gilbert Brule during the regular season helped. I remember Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney talking about Vermette. They spoke about how his post season experience was going to pay off and they were right on the money with that one. He was the leading point scorer during the Hawks series. Finally, the team winning the division, something they had never done before. This gave them home ice, an advantage they didn't really use, but it also changed who they were playing. The Yotes were playing the 6th place team and not one of the top 3, and they played a team they knew how to beat in the regular season.
Jordan: A lot of hard work, some lucky bounces and exceptional play from Mike Smith. I don't think there was any single factor that made this series win possible where it was not in prior years. Two years ago, the Coyotes had a more solid team (in my opinion), but had to play that series against a powerful Detroit franchise without Shane Doan or Scottie Upshall (two of their better scorers). While this year the team dealt with injuries, they seemed shorter lived and less devastating to the team's make up in some way. Also, Mike Smith absolutely stole Game 6 for the Coyotes, something that Ilya Bryzgalov did not accomplish in any of the 11 games that he played against Detroit over the last two seasons.
Carl: This version's ability to deal well with adversity whether self imposed or imposed by others seems to be the key factor. Of course, the guy wearing number forty one could be a reason too.
Travis: By not letting outside stuff get to them. Well that and not playing the Wings. They have a mental block when it comes to that team. Really they just kept playing their game. Solid forechecking, backchecking, midchecking? Everything was working on those levels. Mike Smith playing absolutely out of his mind certainly didn't hurt at all either especially with as many injuries as the team had in the forward corps.
Aside from Mike Smith, who do you see as being the biggest x-factor in this series for the Phoenix Coyotes?
Yotesgurl: Being completely biased, I'm going with Mikkel Ekman-Larsson. I mean, Oliver Boedker. Mikkel was obviously c-l-u-t-c-h when Radim and Ray were kinda nameless guys in jerseys. His speed is an unbelievable asset and now that he is actually starting to shoot? Dang.
While Oliver only had 3 pts, it's his minutes that were impressive. 26 or 27 minutes per game in his first playoffs? I mean, he did play against crappy players, but still. Oh, he played against Jonathan Toews most of the time? I see. So, YEAH, HE KINDA DID AWESOME. With our D starting to look like a MASH unit, Oliver was reliable, calm, and a stud.
I could also mention Vermette and maybe even Pyatt here, but I won't. THEY AREN'T EUROPEAN, and therefore don't exist in my universe.
The Dude: Antoine Vermette. He was great in the first series and it really felt like he had finally come alive as a Coyote as soon as the playoffs started. The only thing I can see stopping him is the Nashville defense, but I think he is going to find a way around that and get himself a few more points. Also depending on how much rest the Prime Line gets I can see Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata, and Martin Hanzal being a big factor if they all return 100%
Jordan: Radim Vrbata. It's typical for the leading goal scorers to slow down a lot during the playoffs because the other team is actively doing everything in their power to keep those guys off the scoresheet. That being said, 11 players on the Coyotes scored goals in the first round and Vrby wasn't among them. His line thus far in the playoffs is an uninspiring 0G, 1A, -4. He's a streaky scorer and when he does light the lamp they might start coming in bunches, so getting him should be a HUGE priority for the Coyotes. Hopefully the Prime Line isn't the subject of a lot of injury reports and the extra rest is helping them gear up for this series.
Carl: The Coyotes bottom three lines. I expect the Whitney-Hanzal-Vrbata line to get shut down by the Preds. Therefore, just like with the Hawks, the Dogs will need secondary scoring. Of the three lines, the Boedker-Vermette-Doan is the one that really needs to produce.
Travis: Roll the dice on anyone being the offensive spark for the team. It's anyone's guess who that will be as it's always something different. Last series Mikkel Boedker won two games basically on his own. This time? Maybe the top lines can actually be the top. Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan have been really quiet which should scare both sides of this matchup. If they keep forcing the rest of the team to produce that may not pan out for the Coyotes. If they find a way to generate points and goals the Preds are going to have a difficult time of it. In the end if I have to pick one name? Doan.
Yotesgurl: While the buzz is obviously about Alex Radulov and his return from the land where goal scores you, it's not smart to overlook David Legwand. OMG IT FEELS DIRTY EVEN TO TYPE THAT NAME! He's not flashy, he's efficient, and I feel like he kills us every time! Mike Fisher is gonna be facing off with Taylor Pyatt in a grudge match for most mesmerizing eyes. Hopefully, he will be too busy to eye the net.
And while it is known far and wide that OUR Martin from Czech is the BEST Martin from Czech, the Preds also have a Martin from Czech who is pretty good. I mean, he's no Marty, but.... well technically he's a Marty. Martin Erat will look to break through the Mike Smith wall. He attended Czech sniper school with Radim so we better keep an eye on him.
The Dude: Alexander Radulov is probably the cornerstone of the Nashville offense right now and is definitely going to be the big threat that Phoenix has to control. I think playing Chicago though has taught the boys how to control the big offense player, they kept most of Chicago's main goal scorers from generating the offense they would have like. Even though I haven't seen him play a lot I doubt Radulov is going to try skating through 4 Coyotes to get to the net like Chicago tried to do over and over again, so he may very well be more dangerous than the Blackhawks big guys, he certainly has the points to make me worried.
Jordan: Patric Hornqvist. He'll be sitting on the third line, perhaps a bit under the radar, avoiding the best defensive pairings, but he can be a deadly goal scorer. There's really a handful of guys on Nashville that I feel could really cause trouble, but Hornqvist is the one that I just have a particularly bad feeling about.
Carl: Patric Hornqvist. He drives to the net and gets the type of goals that get scored in the playoffs. In the 11 games he has played against Phoenix in the last 3 seasons he had 6 goals and 4 assists.
Travis: Wait, there are other guys on that team? I thought they just put those three out there and went for it. I really don't know. I'll pick Patric Hornqvist because he always seems to do well against us.
Who wins the series and in how many games?
Shouldn't we also be asking how many OT games? UGH! NO MORE OT, BAD FOR THE HEART.
Ummmmmmm, my homerism says that we will this series in 3 games. 2 games? Let's go with 7 games. I hope I still like Pekka Rinne at the end of the series, as he is a fine, upstanding, Finnish gentlemen.
The Dude: Coyotes win in 7. I can also see this series going to overtime 7 games in a row but I hope to God that it doesn't actually happen.
Jordan: No reason for this series to be anything but a slugfest, so I'll call it just the way I did the first round: 'Yotes in 7.
Carl: Unfortunately, I think the clock is going to strike midnight for Dave Tippett's charges in Round Two. As much as I want to pick the Coyotes to win this series, the match-up favors the Predators. The Preds have more depth up front and have the ability to withstand an injury or two in this series. I'm not sure the Yotes do. My prediction is the Predators win the inaugural Balsillie Cup in seven games. Let's hope the Coyotes prove me wrong.
Travis: With a Healthy(ish) squad and everyone in not named Raffi? I'll do like last series and take Coyotes in 5. I think if they manage it every game will be close, but the Coyotes do well in tight games. Who cares so long as it's the Coyotes in the end.