In Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, the LA Kings dominated the Phoenix Coyotes in almost every aspect. The Kings looked to be an unstoppable force, while most of the Coyotes looked like traffic cones. With all that being said, Phoenix was still in the game up until Dwight King scored his empty net goal with 48 seconds left in the 3rd period. With a little more energy and smarter play from their skaters Phoenix can even up the series tonight in Glendale.
Five For Winning
1. Ratchet Up The Intensity. Minus Antoine Vermette's line the team looked listless for much of Game 1. Hard to beat any NHL club when you've got no energy much less an aggressive, physical team like the Kings. While the Yotes need more energy they need to make sure its controlled so as to not take dumb penalties which is easy to do against LA.
2.Faceoffs. Losing in the dot by a margin up 14% again won't cut it. The Kings have big centers who aren't easy to get clean wins from. Hopefully the linesmen will help by not waiting an eternity to drop the puck like they did on Sunday. Guys got tossed a bunch partly due to the interminable waits for the puck to leave the zebras hands.
3. Puck Possession - The Coyotes aren't a great puck possession team, but even for them Game 1 was ridiculous. The Kings spent the vast majority of the game peppering Mike Smith. Part of the problem was the Desert Dogs having trouble getting the puck out of their own zone and through the neutral zone. The passing decisions made by the team's defensemen left much to be desired. LA's aggressive forecheck was a big part of this. The Yotes need to be smarter on who and how they pass. A team as aggressive as the Kings leaves themselves vulnerable on the back end which Phoenix can exploit with good outlet passes.
4. Shot Disparity. Related to #3.The Coyotes get routinely outshot, however the difference on Sunday was unacceptable. While puck possession was a large part of the issue, so was Phoenix players looking for the perfect shot instead of getting shots on net that could create rebound opportunities. If a Yotes player gets an open shooting lane against LA they need to fire the puck.
5. Crash The Net. When the Coyotes did actually have the puck they were inconsistent when it came to getting players in front of the crease. When the blueliners are putting rubber on the net the forwards need to be in position to screen Quick and be ready to knock in rebound opportunities.
Players to Watch
#11 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes
Feb 20, 1987
|2011 - Martin Hanzal||64||8||26||34||12||63||3||0||2||145|
Hanzal won only 5 of 13 faceoffs in Game One. He was a non-factor in most other areas as well. The Prime Line played fairly well against LA during the regular season. Hanzal is the engine on the line and without him playing well the chances of Whitney, and especially Vrbata, getting scoring opportunities are diminished. The Coyotes can't win this series without the Czech center playing well at both ends and inside the dots.
#23 / Right Wing / Los Angeles Kings
Nov 04, 1984
|2011 - Dustin Brown||82||22||32||54||18||53||9||1||6||214|
He's been the best skater in the entire playoffs. Phoenix did nothing to slow him down on Sunday. Coach Tippett is going to have to find a way to corral Brown and his linemates Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. If the Coyotes don't find a way to slow him down they could be watching him accept the Conn Smythe trophy from their couches next month.
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2011 - Mike Smith||67||3903||38||18||144||2.21||2066||1922||.930||8|
Unlike most of his teammates in game one, Smith played well, especially given that he was under constant attack. If you are looking for areas where Phoenix needs to improve this isn't one of them.
#32 / Goalie / Los Angeles Kings
Jan 21, 1986
|2011 - Jonathan Quick||69||4099||35||21||133||1.95||1863||1730||.929||10|
Quick isn't likely to give up another goal like the one he gave to Derek Morris on Sunday night. Similar to Smith, if you are waiting for him to have a bad game you may be waiting awhile.
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
Los Angeles Kings Injuries
Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
Aucoin practiced on Monday and is likely to be a game time decision. The Coyotes could really use his physical presence in the lineup.
For news from the Kings perspective head over to Jewels From The Crown and Battle of California.