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Phoenix Coyotes Roundtable: Curse of the two-goal lead

The FFH crew discuses Mike Smith's hot play, playoff possibilities and why the Coyotes seem to blow so many two-goal leads.

Bruce Bennett
How overrated are two-goal leads?

Brendan Porter: Totally overrated. All the cool kids are doing one goal leads. (*sobs quietly into the laptop keyboard*)

Carl Pavlock: The two-goal lead has long been considered the most dangerous lead in hockey so it isn't too surprising that the Coyotes have been having issues with it. The Coyotes' issues with holding a lead are one of the biggest reasons they are chasing a playoff spot instead of having one secured though and I really think they need to address it sooner rather than later.

Christopher Hair: At least they aren't coughing up three goal leads...yet.

Jaime Eisner: Christopher is right, remember when the LA Kings blew a four-goal lead and still won? The Coyotes were involved in that one too.

What do you attribute Mike Smith's improved play since February 1st to now?

Christopher: Whether it's real or not, Smith's selection to the Canadian Olympic team is certainly marked as a turning point on the calendar. He struggled throughout the first half of the season, ranking in the 30's in most statistical categories for goaltenders and had fans screaming for the presence of Thomas Greiss between the pipes. Since it was announced he was heading to Sochi, Smith has been one of the five best goalies in the entire league. The Coyotes defense has also improved, as evidenced by the reduced number of shots Smith has faced in that time, but the clearing of the mental hurdle of Olympic selection has done wonders for Smith's game.

Carl: Honestly the best explanation I can think of is that he wasn't in the best mental state earlier in the year because of the Olympics and whether he would make the team and now that it has passed, he is able to focus on his game. Of course, the team in front of him has been playing better too, including Zbynek Michalek returning from injury, and I think that has something to do with it too.

Brendan: Better defensive efforts from the guys in front help, plus I think the three weeks or so that Mike Smith got to spend in Sochi helped too. Smith leads the league in terms of minutes played, shots seen, saves made, and a bunch of other metrics that show he's getting a ton of work. With the power play clicking the way that it is and the defense doing a relatively better job at keeping high percentage chances away from the goalie, Smitty's confidence has to be pretty high.

Do you think Phoenix can actually catch LA for the 3rd spot in the Pacific right now?

Carl: I do not think so. LA appears to be in a bit of a funk right now but if we have learned anything these past few years it's that they can turn it on in time for the playoffs. When they won the Stanley Cup, it was like they flipped a switch and instantly became a better hockey team, and I expect them to do something similar moving into the playoffs this year.

Brendan: Possibly, but unlikely. Los Angeles would need to suddenly forget how to play hockey, and right now their underlying metrics all suggest that they are merely in a temporary rough patch. Their Fenwick percentage (measurement of unblocked shot attempts) at even strength when the game is within a goal is #1 in the NHL, which means they're a good team in high pressure situations. While the Coyotes have played better hockey than say a month or two ago, I don't think that's going to be enough to catch up with Los Angeles. At this point, it's a three way battle for the two wild card spots.

Christopher: The Coyotes are within striking distance of catching LA, only five points back with 15 games left. The problem facing Phoenix is their consistency. A team that can look like world beaters on night against the best teams in the league will come out the next game laying the world's largest egg against lesser opposition. Now, the inconsistency has creeped into their period by period play, alternating good periods with lackluster with the downright awful. If the Coyotes can't focus their efforts into playing at their best for extended time, the won't catch L.A., no matter what the hated Kings do.

Could someone explain again why Keith Yandle wasn't considered good enough to make the US Olympic team?

Brendan: Brian Burke was part of the selection committee? Seriously though, the grief that Keith Yandle receives from Coyotes Twitter is a pretty good explanation as to why he didn't make the team. It's not just that he makes mistakes, it's that the mistakes he makes tend to be glaring ones that everybody is looking out for at this stage in his career. Combined with the fact that he plays relatively soft minutes among Phoenix defensemen, one could make a pretty decent case to not put him on the US Olympic team.

*Looks at Brooks Orpik's season numbers*

On second thought, screw Brian Burke and Dan Bylsma.

Christopher: I didn't understand the logic behind his exclusion from the team when it was announced and it's even more baffling given how absolutely dominant Yandle has been since the NHL returned from Sochi. Drew Doughty was the best player on the ice during Monday's game, but Yandle was a close second in my opinion. Apparently the braintrust behind Team USA didn't believe there was any value in a slick skating, game changing, offensive minded bundle of American pride, instead trusting in the brick footed slowness of a Brooks Orpik. Yeah, there's no way Yandle's ability to move the puck could have been useful in Sochi. It's not like the Americans went scoreless for two straight games while failing to medal or anything.

Carl: Keith Yandle not being named to team USA is directly related to the biggest reason USA did not medal in the tournament; the people who put the team together are terrible. This year we had an unprecedented look into the selection process and honestly the players that were snubbed and the reason they were snubbed left many people shaking their heads. If the team had decided to bring Yandle, Bobby Ryan, and Dustin Byfuglien it's possible they could have managed to score a goal in their final 120 minutes of playing.