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Coyotes at Blues recap: game of inches

After a completely underwhelming performance North of the border, the Coyotes played better in St. Louis, but still fell short of victory.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The shaft of a goaltender's hockey stick is three and a half inches wide.  The diameter of the crossbar of the net is two and three eighths inches.  Add them together and it comes to just under six inches or less than half a foot.  Tonight, that was the difference between victory for the Phoenix Coyotes and yet another crushing defeat.  Unfortunately for the Coyotes, they were on the wrong side of those six inches.

Coming to St. Louis less than 24 hours after an awful performance against the Winnipeg Jets, the odds were definitely against the Coyotes starting out the first period with confidence.  Instead of trying to play an uptempo, reckless, undisciplined style of game, Phoenix wisely played a low key, boring and choppy brand of hockey to start the period.  Lots of whistles kept either side from gaining any momentum or sustained pressure for much of the opening ten minutes.

When momentum finally formed, it did so in St. Louis' favor.  The Blues were able to get the puck low in the Coyotes zone and David Backes drew the attention of all five Coyotes on the ice.

Backes made a cross ice pass to Alex Pietrangelo who held the puck below the circle and the gaze of all five Coyotes defenders again. This allowed T.J. Oshie to come off the bench and enter the zone with no resistance.  Pietrangelo fed Oshie for an uncontested one timer that beat Smith for a 1-0 lead for the Blues.

No other scoring would occur in the period but the Coyotes did manage to not take any penalties in that frame, unlike the four minors they took in the first period against the Jets.

The second period would not go as smoothly for the Coyotes discipline wise, as they opened the second with a Michael Stone holding minor 1:38 into the period.  For once, the Coyotes penalty kill was more than up to the challenge, and easily killed the Blues advantage.

Ten minutes later, they would not be so lucky as Stone would take another penalty, this time for cross checking.  A minute into the advantage, Oshie would walk the puck from the boards at the point to the middle of the ice.  Jaden Schwartz provided an excellent screen in front of Smith and Oshie wristed a shot past an unknowing Mike Smith to give the Blues a 2-0 lead.

After Klesla was whistled for a questionable cross checking penalty on Chris Stewart late in the period, David Backes would be hit with the dreaded makeup call on the Blues power play.  The Coyotes would control the puck in the offensive zone as the Klesla penalty came to an end, enabling them to start their shortened power play in the zone.  Keith Yandle would make an incredible play to keep the puck from leaving the zone and would then find Oliver Ekman-Larsson with a beautiful cross ice seam pass that OEL would bury past Jaroslav Halak for a power play tally with 48 seconds left in the second.

The Coyotes would capitalize on the momentum they derived from their late second period goal and would dominate play throughout the third. That dominance wouldn't translate into finding the equalizing goal however.

Less than two minutes into the third, David Moss would have an amazing chance in front of an open net on a great pass from Shane Doan, but Halak would get back across and his goal stick shaft would catch a piece of the shot, sending it into the netting above the glass.  The Coyotes would keep the pressure up and would get another chance at tying the game at 15:44, but Radim Vrbata's wide open look from the slot would hit the crossbar over Halak's shoulder.

That would be the closest the Yotes would get the rest of the way. Smith would be pulled with a little over a minute left, but a Yandle shattered stick and a hopping puck would torpedo any chance at tying the game.  Despite outshooting the Blues eight to two in the third, they couldn't beat Halak and lost their fourth in a row.

Paw Prints

  • Blues' perspective
  • After winning less than 50% of his opening period face-offs (3-for-7), Antoine Vermette won 13 of 15 draws in the second and third period.
  • The Coyotes outshot the Blues 21-18 for the game, even after only getting 4 shots on goal in the first.
  • Advanced stats show how much the Coyotes outplayed the Blues despite the loss, as their CorsiFor was 59% and their FenwickFor was 55.2%.
  • The Coyotes have not defeated a team from the United States in over a month.  Their last victory over a non-Canadian team was on December 12th against the Islanders.

Our Three Stars of the Game

  1. T.J. Oshie. Scored both St. Louis goals and played well on the penalty kill as well. 
  2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Played the most minutes of anyone in the game with 29:33 and led all players with 6 shots on goal. 
  3. Jaden Schwartz. Played over 20 minutes and his textbook screen on Smith was the defining play of the game.

Comment of the Night

Apparently my article didn’t persuade Tippett to start Rundblad any time soon.

by Jaime Eisner on Jan 14, 2014 | 6:11 PM

Looking Ahead

The Coyotes return to Glendale for a matchup with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Arizona time.  The Coyotes have a lot of positives to build on with the way they played tonight and have gotten at least a point in both previous matchups with the Nucks.