Credit where credit is due, as the Nashville Predators came as advertised, preventing the Phoenix Coyotes from generating much of any offensive pressure throughout the game, and Pekka Rinne continued his remarkable play of late, propelling the Preds to a 3-0 victory.
For the Coyotes, much of their lack of success can be traced (as Tyson Nash pointed out during the postgame) to a lack of ability to convert on several first period man advantage opportunities. (Let me take just a minute also to credit Tyson Nash who has actually become one of the better color commentary guys that I hear on the radio. His keys of the game might still border on the hockey cliche, but his analysis and ability to provide insight into the game continue to improve with every game) The Coyotes were having some issues getting set up in the zone and generating pressure on Rinne, and the Preds PK unit did a wonderful job of keeping the 'Yotes chasing the puck back into their own zone.
Now the Preds weren't exactly lighting anything up on their end of the ice, as the Coyotes played a strong game themselves until allowing 3 goals in the third. The first of those goals, a power play deflection by Gabriel Bourque off of a Martin Erat shot would be the game-winner. Two defensive breakdowns allowed Nick Spaling and Mike Fisher to have open space near the right hand circle and they each blasted wicked wristers past Mike Smith.
For the Coyotes, Steve Sullivan would record the three best scoring opportunities when he was stoned by Rinne twice on the doorstep after slipping behind the Preds defense late in the first period twice on a single shift. His third great chance came midway through the third when he slipped through the Nashville defenders and had a mini-breakaway only to be stoned by Rinne's glove. Full credit to the Nashville franchise for honoring Sully with a tribute video during an early media timeout.
Five For Winning
1. Keep the Momentum Going. With the exception of the clunker of a game against the Hawks, the Coyotes are on a bit of a roll, going 5-1-2 over their last 8 games, a streak that started with a 4-0 victory over these Predators at Jobing.com Arena. If the 'Yotes want to repeat as Pacific Division Champs, they need to continue to accumulate points 2 at a time. Alas it was not to be as the Coyotes couldn't generate enough offense and Rinne stopped everything thrown his way.
2. Stay Disciplined. The Coyotes are best when they are rolling all four lines out there and not in a special teams battle (despite the gaudy--for them--power play conversion this year). They've been better recently, but Steve Sullivan took yet another unsportsmanlike penalty in Colorado and they need to cut that out. No misconducts or truly silly penalties ('Yotes only took 2 for the entire game), but the game winner was scored by Nashville with the man advantage.
3. Play for 60; Focus. It's the last day of the longest road trip of the season, thus far, and players will start to think about what they need/want to do when they get back to Phoenix (see their wives/kids/dogs/cats/horses/etc.). In addition, at least the broadcast team was out watching the U.S. Women's National soccer team play Scotland last night and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the players went as well. The Coyotes need to finish periods strong and make sure they don't get victimized late in the game and give away precious points. It wasn't a matter of the final minute causing them issues, they were just a bit asleep all game.
4. Don't Wake Up the Preds. As I mentioned earlier, the Preds just snapped a 176+ minute scoreless drought; no need to have them putting in that week's worth of goals all at once at our expense. For a while it looked like they would do this, but Nashville was able to build off the first deflected goal to add two pretty fine goals late.
5. Crash the Net. A goalie like Rinne isn't easily beaten by shots flipped at them from sharp angles along the boards, no matter how awesome said shooter is. The Coyotes are going to need to be in the dirty areas and be looking to tip point shots or put in rebounds if they are going to have success. No, just not nearly enough Coyotes presence in front of Rinne or shots in general as the Coyotes only managed 19 shots for the entire game.
1. Pekka Rinne - has 3 shutouts in his last 4 games...yeah, he's good.
2. Martin Erat - pair of assists, general Coyotes nuisance
3. Nick Spaling - nobody else really stands out, and his goal was a sick shot.
The Coyotes head back home to Jobing.com Arena for a Saturday night face-off with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The BJs will be arriving late Friday after a game tomorrow with the Los Angeles Kings. Columbus' most recent game was a 6-2 demolition of the reeling Sharks. The Coyotes won the first match-up with the Jackets 5-1.