Top five ways for Phoenix to rise from the ashes
Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency
|Shane Doan takes a swing at the puck during their team practice in Glendale, Arizona May 21, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Korol
LOS ANGELES - You know the drill.
Team gets down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series in the NHL playoffs.
Everybody trots out the fact that only three times in history have teams come back from that ultimate deficit to win.
It is interesting that it was done just two years ago by the Philadelphia Flyers against the Boston Bruins and with parity the way it is in the league, it would just seem logical that is “easier” to do it now. There’s so little to choose from between teams and even the coaches admit that many times games come down to bounces.
So, here at the Top 5 things that will give the Phoenix Coyotes the best chance of winning Game 5 of the Western Conference final and force it back to Los Angeles for Game 6:
1. The goalie: Maybe when it comes to Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, Phoenix defenceman Keith Yandle summed it up best Monday: “When he’s at his best,” said Yandle, “we’re at our best.” Smith had a 36-save shutout - his third of the playoffs - to help the Coyotes avoid elimination in Game 4 Sunday. He’s probably going to have to do something very close to that if the Coyotes are going to hand the Kings their first road loss of this post-season and stay alive Tuesday night.
2. Keep it special: The penalty killing almost always rules over the power plays at this time of year. The Coyotes have killed off 11-straight Los Angeles power plays over the last two games. They’ve only given up two power-play goals in the series and they were both on 5-on-3s in Game 2. They will likely have to be perfect again in Game 5 to have a chance of winning.
3. On the flip side: The Kings power play has had trouble getting shots through. The Coyotes came up with some big blocks on the penalty kill Sunday, particularly by Antoine Vermette and Boyd Gordon and they’ll need that kind of sacrifice again. Kings coach Darryl Sutter said his shooters are taking too long. “If you’re blocking shots, that means you have time to block the shot, right?” he said Monday. “We scored goals 5-on-3 where they weren’t allowed to block shots, so we should be able to do that again 5-on-4.” Well, when he makes it sound that simple...
4. A little help, please: The Coyotes need to have somebody step up and score a goal who isn’t on the current edition of the Mikkael Boeker-Antoine Vermette-Shane Doan line. They have accounted for three of the five goals the Coyotes have scored in these playoffs (the others were scored by defenceman Derek Morris and forward Daymond Langkow). This is a situation that cries out for a contribution from the reunited line of Ray Whitney-Michal Hanzal-Radim Vrbata. Vrbata has been held to just two shots in the last two games.
5. Get better on the dots: The Coyotes won Game 4 to stay alive despite the fact they won only 44% of the faceoffs. Langkow was 1-10. Jarret Stoll was 7-4 to lead the Kings, who didn’t have a guy under 50%. When you lose that number of faceoffs, that’s a lot of puck chasing. Life would be a lot easier for the Coyotes if they could do a better job in the circles.