"This is a good slap in the face."
Phoenix Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett used those words to describe Thursday night's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The game was a battle of streaks as the Coyotes had yet to lose a February game in regulation since 2011 and the Blackhawks were yet to lose a game in regulation this season.
The Coyotes did not just lose; they were annihilated 6-2 including four first period goals against. "We just went out there and got kicked," Tippett said.
In what was the least surprising event of 2013, Raffi Torres scraped with a Blackhawk on his first shift against Chicago since being suspended for a hit on Marian Hossa last April. Jamal Mayers came off the bench to do the "honors" for Chicago just 2:35 into the game. As we got back to hockey, Viktor Stalberg opened the scoring 8:17 into the game when he wristed a shot past a screened Mike Smith to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. The Blackhawks would extend their lead with a 5-on-3 power play goal by Patrick Kane. Poor penalties by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Derek Morris gave Chicago the two-man advantage. Dave Bolland gave the Hawks a 3-0 lead and Keith Yandle was furious. So furious in fact, that he immediately took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty coupled with a 10-minute misconduct. Kane scored his second 5-on-3 goal of the game with under two minutes remaining in the period. Patrick Sharp assisted on three goals in the period.
Shane Doan would later take an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, much to the chagrin of Tippett. Tippett called both penalties "yapping penalties" and said that both players are "supposed to be our captains. That speaks for itself."
Martin Hanzal continued his hot streak by scoring a power play goal five minutes into the second period, cutting the Chicago lead to three. Toews gave the Hawks their four goal lead back after undressing Ekman-Larsson and sniping one past Smith. Bryan Bickell made it an even half-dozen for Chicago and chased Smith away from the game in the process. Jason LaBarbera stopped the only shot he faced in the period.
Raffi Torres added a late goal but was way too little, too late. The goal was Torres' first of the season and first on his long journey back to the NHL. Asked if he is relieved that the first meeting with Chicago was over, Torres said that he has already moved on and does not continuously think about the infamous hit from April.
- The Coyotes were outshot 17-4 in the first period.
- Chicago scored as many goals as the Coyotes had shots in the first period.
- Hanzal is on a four-game point streak.
- Smith has allowed 12 goals against Chicago and only eight against the rest of the NHL this season.
- Phoenix took 11 penalties (plus a 10-min misconduct) in the game.
Five For Winning
1. Control the Emotions. Everybody knows there will be some tension on the ice for this one, including the officials and the league office. The last thing the Coyotes want to do is give in to some of the bad blood and do something stupid to earn a Shanaban. If the Blackhawks want to take liberties on Raffi Torres, let them take the fall for it. The Coyotes did not keep their emotions in check, but not for the reasons expected going into the game. As the Coyotes fell behind and were on the wrong end of some questionable calls, the discipline eroded. Doan and Yandle both had unsportsmanlike conduct penalties levied against them.
2. Tighten Up Defensively. Luckily for Phoenix fans the defense has started to look like its old self again. That will be extremely important when playing guys like Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews. Avoid making costly mistakes (I'm looking at you, Yandle) and force the Blackhawks to earn every single scoring chance they get. Lets just say this didn't exactly happen. Giving up six goals is not the way the Coyotes (or anyone else for that matter) can win hockey games.
3. Manage the Flow. The Coyotes need to avoid making this game a track meet. In their first meeting this season, Chicago did an excellent job of moving up the ice and making the Coyotes chase pucks and players. Phoenix needs to clog the neutral zone so the Blackhawks skill players don't have easy access to good shooting lanes. Chicago dominated the flow of play throughout the game as it became the track meet that Phoenix hoped to avoid.
4. Keep Doing What You're Doing, Special Teams. Somehow, both aspects of the Coyotes special teams have remained respectable at the 1st quarter mark of the season. If the Coyotes can grab a goal on the power play and keep the Blackhawks off the ledger while shorthanded, that's a two-goal swing that will definitely help. The Yotes did well on both special teams units. They were awarded only two power play attempts and scored on the second one. Phoenix gave Chicago nine power play attempts and killed off seven of them.
5. Get Points. Chicago has not ended a game without snagging at least one point. They're an excellent team that is playing extremely well. Phoenix has been playing well too, which means losing in regulation is not good enough. No points were to be gotten on this night for the Desert Dogs. Not even close.
Our Three Stars Of The Game
1. Partick Kane: Kane scored two goals and added an assist on the night. The offense ran through him on the power play.
2. Patrick Sharp: While he didn't score, Sharp assisted on three goals (including both of Kane's goals).
3. Jonathan Toews: A goal, an assist and an all-around solid night for the Blackhawks captain.
The Coyotes look to get back on track with a Saturday matinee against the San Jose Sharks in Northern California. The 2 p.m. game will be the first meeting between the two teams since the Yotes blew a two goal third period lead to lose 5-3.