If I thought the hangover was long for the first series victory, man I'm still feeling beat after watching the Phoenix Coyotes close out the Nashville Predators on home ice Monday night. Amazing atmosphere in Jobing.com Arena and so much fun to witness in person. I'm sure the Coyotes have taken their 12 hours to celebrate and already put in a hard days work preparing for their series with the Los Angeles Kings, but you'll forgive us if we ease into it a bit. The NHL still has yet to announce when the series will start, but it's likely to be either Saturday or Sunday night.
As I'm sure you will hear more than enough of, the Kings are playing at an even higher level than the Coyotes through their first two rounds of the playoffs, composing an 8-1 record behind stellar goaltending by Jonathan Quick and amazing forward play from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and others. It's going to be a very tough series for the Coyotes, but in this year of Hockey the Hard Way, would we want it any other way?
Some basic numbers:
|Power Play Percent||16.9||13.5|
|Power Play Rank||17||29|
|Penalty Kill Percent||87.0||85.5|
|Penalty Kill Rank||4
|H2H Power Play Conversion
||2 for 17
||4 for 20|
Game 1: October 21, 2011 @ Phoenix, 2-0 Kings win
Ah yes, my first look at Mike Richards in a Los Angeles jersey and he was instrumental in this one. Coyotes actually played a pretty good game overall, but Dustin Brown scored on the power play from a Richards feed early in the second period and then Kyle Clifford scored on an odd-man rush later in the period for all the scoring. Coyotes had chances, especially late, but Jonathan Quick recorded his second consecutive shutout leading the Kings to the win.
Game 2: October 29, 2011 @ Phoenix, 3-2 Coyotes win (OT)
This was the game that really got Radim Vrbata's season moving along as he scored two goals during regulation and then had an assist on Daymond Langkow's overtime game winner that deflected past Quick off of Jack Johnson's stick. Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar had the Kings goals. This game was also notable for the first of the ugly hits by Raffi Torres that eventually led to his banishment by the Shanahammer.
Game 3: December 26, 2011 @ Los Angeles, 4-3 Kings win
Another close game as Dustin Brown scored the game winner early in the third period against Jason LaBarbera, who was tagged for all four goals before Curtis McElhinney relieved him and stopped all six shots he faced. This was during the Martin Hanzal, Mike Smith and Boyd Gordon joint injury nightmare period of the season. Torres had two goals for the Coyotes and Langkow added one of his own.
Game 4: January 5, 2012 @ Los Angeles, 1-0 Kings win (OT)
Mike Smith's second game back from his groin injury and it was a really strong effort from him turning aside 26 of 27 shots. The goal in overtime by Drew Doughty was controversial as it was scored as Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Doughty went into the crease and the net was dislodged as the puck crossed the line. The play was reviewed, but the goal stood. At the time, the Coyotes had lost 6 of 7 games and were looking like a long shot to make the playoffs let alone be where they are today.
Game 5: February 16, 2012 @ Los Angeles, 1-0 Coyotes win
If you were going to re-watch any one game of this series to get a feel for what these playoffs might be like, this is the one you'd watch probably. Folks will remember this game for the brutal (but clean) hit by Dustin Brown on Rostislav Klesla that sent him out of the lineup for several weeks and the many fights that followed. Shane Doan and Brown; Mike Richards and Martin Hanzal; Raffi Torres and Colin Frasor; Paul Bissonnette and Kevin Westgarth. Vrbata had the lone goal of the game on a power play in the second period. Coyotes were rolling in February and Mike Smith was lights out in net.
Game 6: February 21, 2012 @ Phoenix, 5-4 Coyotes win (SO)
Despite being a crazy win, this game previewed a lot of the problems that would haunt the Coyotes in early March. The Kings entered the game struggling to score goals, but would put up a three spot in the first period alone. The Coyotes came charging back in the second with three goals of their own, but Los Angeles would enter the third period ahead 4-3. A match penalty late in the third period to Kyle Clifford for boarding Gilbert Brule led to Radim Vrbata's second power play goal of the game (Doan also had 2 goals, including a power play tally) which tied the game at 4. Mikkel Boedker had a sick, sick shootout move that won the game for the 'Yotes. Mike Smith gave up three goals early, but the Coyotes had no pressure in the first period recording only 5 shots and looked much better as the game went on.
This is a tight series. The teams each won 3 games, but the Coyotes won 2 in extra time, so the Kings technically won the season series with a 3-1-2 record. Other than the first game of the season, all the games were decided by just a single goal. It was a physical series, particularly as we got to the later February games when both teams were battling for a playoff position. The teams haven't seen each other for a while now, but that animosity is sure to return pretty quickly, I would imagine.
The Coyotes have put eight wins in the books this postseason, more than any other Coyotes team has come close to doing, but it's only half way to the ultimate prize. The players will want to make the most of their time off before this series starts because it's going to be a brutal, physical affair and the wins are just going to keep getting tougher to come by with every passing game.