Even before the puck dropped Friday night for Game 1 between the Nashville Predators and the Phoenix Coyotes, it was clear that this would be a series to make or break the playoffs. Because Phoenix was ranked with the 3rd seed, Nashville would have to start the series with two games in Glendale, Arizona, giving the Coyotes the upper hand with home ice advantage. However, Nashville has a point of making the best of an underdog situation, but would it be enough with an equally as skilled goalie like Mike Smith? Here are the highlights from the first two games of Round 2 between Nashville and Phoenix:
G A M E 1:
- Colin Wilson, Jordin Tootoo, Brian McGrattan, Jack Hillen, Matt Halischuk, and Ryan Ellis found themselves on the scratched list, but there is one name that did not make that list: Hal Gill. The week long break after Round 1 gave Gill just the amount of recovery time he needed to step up in Game 1 of Round 2.
- Phoenix took the lead first at 7:23 with a wrist shot by Radim Vrbata on the powerplay, his first goal of the playoffs.
- Brandon Yip would answer the call at 14:09 for his first goal of the playoffs with a wrist shot of his own. Francis Bouillon (2nd assist) and Craig Smith (1st assist) picked up the assists on Yip’s goal.
- Rostislav Klesla would put the Coyotes up 2-1 early into the 2nd Period at 3:05 for his 2nd goal of the playoffs with a backhander passed Pekka Rinne.
- Andrei Kostitsyn would respond at 11:19 for his 2nd goal of the playoffs with a wrist shot passed Mike Smith. Patric Hornqvist (2nd assist) and Francis Bouillon (3rd assist) picked up the assists.
- Mikkel Boedker would end the 2nd Period with a wrist shot for his 3rd goal of the playoffs.
- Martin Erat would tie the game at 15:18 in the 3rd Period on the powerplay, his first goal of the playoffs. Patric Hornqvist (3rd assist) and and Ryan Suter (1st assist) grabbed the assists.
- After an impressive 3rd Period and OT push by the Predators, Ray Whitney ended the game in favor of the Coyotes at 14:04 in OT, his 2nd goal of the playoffs.
- The Predators blew the Coyotes out of the water in shots (42 to 24), but Mike Smith lived up to his name, blocking 39 of those shots on goal. Pekka Rinne and the defense fell to Phoenix, who had a difficult time with both face-offs and miscommunicated plays.
- Along with miscommunication and terrible face-offs, the Predators had a difficult time slipping the puck passed Mike Smith on power plays, and Nashville was given five chances against Phoenix’s three. Out of their three chances, the Coyotes were able capitalize on their first one, and Nashville was also only able to capitalize on one. Here are the three offenders:
- Kevin Klein – 6:26 1st Period – Tripping
- Ryan Suter – 15:43 1st Period – Tripping
- Pekka Rinne (Yes, the goalie picked up a penalty & it was served by Brandon Yip) – 2:47 3rd Period – Interference
The Predators tend to have a rough start after taking long breaks (i.e. the All-Star break), but after one game, surely the Predators were able to get a good feel of what the Coyotes were capable of. Surely, right?
G A M E 2:
- Colin Wilson was given his taste of playoff freedom tonight, stretching his legs on the ice after being scratched since March. Craig Smith, Jordin Tootoo, Ryan Ellis, Jack Hillen, Brian McGrattan, and Matt Halischuk rounded out the scratched list for Game 2.
- The Coyotes started the game off with a goal at 8:32 with a wrist shot from Antoine Vermette, his 5th goal of the playoffs.
- Andrei Kostitsyn would nab his 3rd playoff goal at 17:13, tying the game up going into the 2nd Period. Kevin Klein (2nd assist) and Nick Spaling (3rd assist) walked away with the assists.
- The 2nd Period belonged to Phoenix, with Martin Hanzal gaining his 2nd goal of the playoffs at 3:47.
- Radim Vrbata would push Phoenix up 3-1 at 7:05 for his 2nd goal of the playoffs.
- Patric Hornqvist would seal his first goal of the playoffs with a tip-in passed Mike Smith at 11:20 on the power play. Ryan Suter (2nd assist) and Mike Fisher (3rd assist) picked up the assists.
- Exactly thirty seconds later, Taylor Pyatt pushed the Coyotes up 4-2 for his 3rd goal of the playoffs.
- Ryan Suter would score early in the 3rd Period (53 seconds) for his first goal of the playoffs. Shea Weber (1st assist) and Alexander Radulov (5th assist) nabbed the assists on Suter’s goal.
- Shane Doan would silence the Predators at 3:36 with a tip-in goal, his second goal of the playoffs.
- The Predators toned down the shots on goal in Game 2, only sending 33 towards Smith compared to Phoenix’s 39 at Rinne. However, the weaknesses in Nashville’s defense looked like a wide open net to Phoenix, who ate up every mistake the Predators made. Powerplays favored the Predators, however, with Nashville capitalizing on two of four chances. Nashville’s defense stepped up during the penalties, but failed during even play. Trotz’s experimental Josi/Klein line completely buckled under the pressure of the Coyotes, proving Roman Josi and Hal Gill should stick together.
- As stated above, the Predators gave the Coyotes four powerplay chances, but luckily were unable to nab their chances. Here are the four penalty takers:
- Brandon Yip – 12:57 1st Period – Roughing
- Shea Weber – 17:07 2nd Period – Boarding
- Mike Fisher – 19:50 2nd Period – Roughing
- David Legwand – 19:14 3rd Period – Cross Checking
The Phoenix Coyotes are relentless at home and Nashville just wasn’t prepared for the Coyotes to come out swinging after just finishing their Round 1 with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was clear in Game 1 that Nashville was taken aback by the Coyotes’ ferocity, but were completely mauled in Game 2. The Predators head home to Nashville tonight to continue the series, hoping the familiarity of the Bridgestone Arena will bring life back into the struggling team.
What the Predators need to focus on/fix:
- Frustration/Complete mental breakdown
- Fallout of the defense
- Face-off wins
Game 3 starts an hour later than usual with the puck dropping at 8PM. Nashville will need to buckle down and work together to climb out of this hole they have dug called ‘Phoenix’ and remember that this isn’t the regular season. With such a prime opportunity to reach the Cup, why start breaking down now?