PHOENIX - It is an unlikely state of affairs.
The coach of the winning team is concerned and promises changes are on the way.
The coach of the losing team is preaching patience and staying the course.
Such is the situation heading into Game 2 Sunday of the Western Conference second-round series with the Phoenix Coyotes up a game on the Nashville Predators.
The Coyotes will be looking to hold serve Sunday before the series shifts to Nashville for games Wednesday and Friday, but to do so the Coyotes, badly outplayed in the latter stages of Game 1 before winning in overtime, have to be at least a little better, no?
Okay, a lot better.
“We’re taking the Coyote Ugly thing to a new level,” said Phoenix general manager Don Maloney with a laugh Saturday.
The Coyotes could afford themselves a smile after their 4-3 win Friday night, but their pattern of relying on goaltender Mike Smith and blowing late leads - they’ve given it up four times now in seven post-season games - is inevitably going to lose its charm.
“This game’s huge. Everyone talks about the second and third games of a series, and we’ve got to find a way to win this next one,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. “We didn’t play bad, we didn’t play great, but we found a way to win, and we’ve got to do it again. I don’t care how. I’d love to be talking (Sunday) about how we didn’t play great, but we found a way to win again. That’s fine by me.”
The Predators will be better in Game 2. They had a week layoff after eliminating the Detroit Red Wings in the first round and got better as Game 1 unfolded. They used their speed on the forecheck, got a cycling game going and pressured the Coyotes into turning the puck over (which they did 11 times to the Preds’ four).
“You’re going to expect a push, but we’ve got to defend it better, just be a little more patient. We have to have more confidence with the puck. We’re panicking too much. Instead of making a play, we’re just giving it right back and they’re coming right back at us...just play better,” said veteran Coyotes forward Daymond Langkow.
“We know Smitty’s going to be there, but 18 or 20 shots they had in the third? I don’t care how good Smitty’s been and he’s been tremendous for us. He’s the biggest reason why we’re at right now. We’ve got to pick it up in the third and give him a little more help.”
The Predators liked their game, all except the part about not scoring more often on Smith, who has become the goaltending story of these playoffs. The Coyotes have given up an average of 40.4 shots a game so far in these playoffs, the most of any team (they have the fewest shots on goal with 26.1 a game).
“Their goalie played a big game and he made a few saves in overtime and the third period. That’s what we have to battle. We have to make it hard for him, go in front, make it hard for him to make the first save and take the rebounds he gives and I think we’ll be alright,” said Predators forward Alexander Radulov.
“We tried hard. He was good. I mean in some of the areas he was a little bit lucky, but that’s the way it is. If you look at the whole game, he was good. Sometimes you’re losing; you have to forget about those games. It’s a best of seven and nothing bad happened. We just have to win tomorrow and go from there.”
“We’ll be much better in Game 2,” promised Predators centre Mike Fisher. “We feel good about ourselves.’’
That is the way it’s going for the Coyotes. Their opponents feel good about themselves, despite losing.
The Coyotes don’t feel nearly so good.
But keep winning.