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Tag:Mike Smith
Posted on: March 6, 2012 2:49 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 2:57 pm
 

The Playoffs have already started for Coyotes

CoyotesBy: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- After cruising through the month of February without a loss in regulation or overtime, the Phoenix Coyotes have hit a rut at the beginning of March, losing three consecutive games, including Monday's 2-1 decision in Pittsburgh.

For a team that's already in what it considers to be playoff mode, needing every win it can get along the way in what is a completely unpredictable and constantly changing playoff race, that's a tough, and potentially costly, stretch of games.

The Western Conference race is so close right now that the Coyotes dropped from the No. 3 seed, and the top spot in the Pacific Division, all the way down to the No. 7 seed, losing the top spot in the division due to a tiebreaker to the Dallas Stars -- a team that didn't even play on Monday night. Entering Tuesday's game in Columbus the Coyotes are just three points ahead of the ninth seeded Avalanche, and one of four teams, along with Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles, fighting for the Pacific Division crown.

Needless to say, it's a tight race.

After winning 11 of 12 games in February (the only loss came during a shootout in Vancouver), the Coyotes skyrocketed up the standings and had an opportunity late last week and over the weekend to continue their impressive run, only to drop home games to Calgary, and even worse, the Blue Jackets, the worst team in hockey for much of the season. It's turned into a small three-game losing streak that continued on Monday night, and slow starts have doomed them in each of the past three games.

They were out-chanced and outplayed for much of the game against the Flames on Thursday, and didn't start to generate any substantial or sustained offensive pressure against Columbus until mid-way through the third period on Saturday, at which point the game was already well in hand in favor of the Blue Jackets.

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There are no such thing as moral victories in professional sports, and there can't be, especially when it's this late in the season and playoff spots are on the line (as forward Radim Vrbata put it on Monday night game, "Points are what count and tonight we didn't get any") but Monday's game at least felt like it was a step back in the right direction, and even though they came up short, the vibe in the Coyotes room after the game was that they probably deserved a better fate. Facing one of the top teams in the NHL, on the road, the Coyotes at least seemed to get back to the style of hockey that resulted in their near-perfect month of February.

"I thought our compete level was very good," said head coach Dave Tippett. "We did a lot of things hard in the hockey game, it's unfortunate we didn't get rewarded around the net a little more. We created some opportunities there we didn't capitalize on, but we gave them a couple outnumbered breaks and they capitalized, and it ended up being the difference in the game."

Added captain Shane Doan, "We felt we controlled the game for most of the night, and then we had some moments where they kind of found some momentum, but we played the game the way we wanted to."

It was one of those nights where they outplayed their opponent for much of the game, only to lose because the other goaltender simply stole one in what turned out to be a pretty impressive goaltender duel between Marc-Andre Fleury and Mike Smith.

Smith, Phoenix's surprisingly strong and steady replacemen for Ilya Bryzgalov, seemed to be disappointed with his performance on Monday after giving up two early goals, including one to former Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek, and talked about his need to be better. But it would be difficult, if not impossible for him to be much better than he's been this season, seeing as how he's already been one of the best goalies in the NHL. The Coyotes don't need him to record a shutout every single game (which is what it would have required to win on Monday), they simply need more consistent offensive pressure and efforts like the one they received in Pittsburgh, even if it came in defeat.

If they play like that over their remaining 16 games, they're going to win a lot more than they lose.

So what's facing the Coyotes the rest of the way? Their remaining schedule is split evenly, with eight home games and eight road games, and eight games against teams that are currently in playoff spots and eight games against teams that are not currently in playoff spots. The biggest issue they have within the division, as of Tuesday, is that San Jose and Los Angeles still have games in hand, and while they have no remaining games with the Kings, they still have to play the Sharks three more times, including two in Phoenix, a series of matchups that could determine whether or not the Coyotes win the division, or perhaps miss the playoffs entirely.

Whether they make it or not, every game the rest of the way is essentially a playoff game anyway.

Said Smith, "They started a month ago for us."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:00 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:27 am
 

Winners & Losers: Jets win to finish homestand

By Brian Stubits

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

Winnipeg: Not the Jets -- although they fit too -- but the city of Winnipeg. Its support of the Jets in their return season has been spectacular and it seemed as amped up as ever at MTS Centre on Monday night with the Sabres in town. Winner earned the right to hold the eighth seed.

As always this season (and for many more to come, I'm sure) they filled the place to the rafters and in unison heckled somebody on the other team. Tonight's choise was Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and the Jets fans might have had the chant of the season, reigning "Sil-ver Med-al!" chants on Miller. Even if he was the best goalie in that tournament in 2010, it was still clever.

But of course its being fueled by the Jets (I'd like to say that pun was intended, but not really). They have still played more games than most every other team in the league but they are now starting to make that a moot point by winning right now. They are forcing those teams with games in hand to pick up all the points to catch them at this point. The win on Monday night, for example, put the Jets four ahead of the Sabres in the East.

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More importanlty, they come out as winners on their long homestand. The victory tonight capped off their eight-game home stand in which they went 5-1-2. They did exactly what they had to which was use the comfy confines of MTS Centre to launch themselves into a position that they can hold on to what was was pretty unthinkable considering they are the Thrashers with a different name: a playoff berth. Nine of their final 15 games are on the road.

[Related Jets 3, Sabres 1]

Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry: The Anaheim Ducks got a win to keep their slimmest of slim playoff hopes alive, but that wasn't the biggest story out of the game. Instead it was, as is often the case, Teemu Selanne notching another milestone.

By assisting on Bobby Ryan's go-ahead goal against the Oilers, Selanne earned his 1,398th career point. That was good enough to tie him with his boyhood idol Jari Kurri for 19th on the all-time scoring list. You know that is one milestone that has to just be a little more special than the rest.

Perry then put in what proved to be the winning tally with only a couple minutes left in the game to reach his own milestone: Career goal No. 200. Sure, it isn't exactly tying your boyhood idol for 19th all time in scoring but it's nothing to sneeze at either. He added No. 201 in an empty net.

And yes, the win keeps the Anaheim hopes alive even if that's a still barely. They move five points behind eighth-place San Jose in the West while the Sharks have three games in hand. What it did accomplish, though, is that they passed the Minnesota Wild to take 12th place by themselves.

[Related: Ducks 4, Oilers 2]

Dallas Stars: Only in the NHL can you win by not playing. See the losers side for an explanation.

Losers

Phoenix Coyotes: What they wouldn't give to get February back. After gaining 23 of the 24 points up for grabs in the month of love, they have been left heartbroken so far in March. The latest was Monday's 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh, the early 2-0 hole too difficult to overcome against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins.

But they lost more than the game on Monday night. The Coyotes also lost their position atop the Pacific Division. Sure, it's by way of tie-breakers, but as of this moment, the Dallas Stars -- not the Coyotes, Sharks, Kings or Ducks -- are your division leaders and current holders of the No. 3 seed out West. Don't believe me? Take a look.

This is how quickly you can go from feeling comfortable to feeling very nervous at this time of the season. They have just a three-point lead at this point on the ninth-seeded Kings and 10th-seeded Avalanche, which isn't different than it was before the night. Except that they lose one game in hand.

It might be time to give goaltender Mike Smith a breather. He has now started 20 of the last 21 games after Monday night and he's obviously dropped the last three. He would probably like the two goals from Monday back, particularly the winner from Chris Kunitz back. After that, though, he was sharp.

[Related: Penguins 2, Coyotes 1]

Goal of the night

Chris Thorburn, Jets: This isn't a regular item in the Winners & Losers, just on occassion when when warrants it. And this one warrants it.

Back to Winnipeg we go.

H/t to Puck Daddy for the video

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:53 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:01 am
 

Morning Skate: Sabres creeping back in

Miller has wins in four of his last five starts. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

10:30 ET, Buffalo at San Jose

Well would you look at that, the Buffalo Sabres are back in the conversation. Somewhat miraculously it's true.

Ryan Miller is showing flashes of the goaltender America came to know two years ago. He's been up to the quality we've come to expect from him in recent games, including Wednesday's shutout of the not-long-ago streaking Anaheim Ducks. As a result -- and of the East's struggle at the bottom -- the Sabres begin the day only five points back of Washington.

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's time to remind everybody that the chances still aren't good and that's a lot of ground to make up still. According to Sports Club Stats, the odds the Sabres make the postseason are still only 4.1 percent. A win tonight in San Jose, however, then we're talking. They would hop two teams and move into 10th place, just three behind Washington (and we'll wait to see what Winnipeg does).

The Sharks meanwhile are still fighting for a playoff spot that is in no way guaranteed to be theirs right now. They just grabbed a huge 1-0 win over the Flyers the other night in San Jose to give them a little breathing room from the eighth-place chasers.

8 ET, Florida at Winnipeg

The Panthers are one of the rare teams that have had success this season in Winnipeg. They have played their twice and won both times. In those two games, Kris Versteeg scored five goals. To put that into context, he has 22 on the season, so nearly 1/4 of his goals have come at MTS Centre despite play 2/59 of his games there.

So the good news for the Jets? Versteeg won't be playing. That's a huge plus for a team that really needs this game at home. Winnipeg enters the night with four fewer points despite three more games played. Win this one and the Panthers stay within reach, fail to pick up any points and, well, that gets to be a big task.

But luckily for the Jets, the eighth seed in the East is still available too. They enter the night one point behind Washington there and can jump back into playoff position by the end of the evening. Again though, they have all those games in hand. That's why their margin for error is so slim, they need to pick up 2/3 of the points available the rest of the season to have a good shot.

9 ET, Calgary at Phoenix

The good news for the Flames as they head to face the Coyotes? The calendar no longer shows February. Phoenix was literally unbeatable (in regulation) for the month going 11-0-1 which included a comeback win in Calgary a week ago.

With that game a key culprit in the equation, the Flames have been slipping lately despite playing a home-heavy schedule. Perhaps getting away from home -- however unlikely that is -- might help them get back on track. It's about time they do if they want to keep in the conversation. Because right now they are four points back of being in with two teams in between them.

And it's not a terribly big secret why the Flames have lost four in a row. Miikka Kiprusoff can only be superman back there for so long. Without him it's hard to picture Calgary still being in the race. In the last four games, however, he has given up 15 goals as well as picking up a loss in two shootouts.

On the other side they face the hottest goaltender this side of ... well anywhere. You can already write Mike Smith's name in pen for the first start of the month of February. He was 11-0-0 in the month. My word.

Others worth watching

10 ET, St. Louis at Vancouver: Hoooo boy, this should be a good win. By virtue of a tie-breaker, these are the top two teams in the Western Conference. Heck, if the Blues win, they're in the lead for the Presidents' Trophy. Plus they have four straight wins on the road. Buckle up.

9 ET, Columbus at Colorado: The Blue Jackets might be out of it, but the Avalanche certainly aren't. They have the opportunity to move into the eighth spot in the West tonight. Pretty remarkable for a team that has been as streaky as they have.

7 ET, New Jersey at Boston: There isn't a whole lot here on the Devils' end. They are somewhat comfy in, but they'd like to start winning again to feel a little better. The Bruins actually find themselves in a division race. They have been mediocre (yes, really) for well over a month now.

Your promised miscellany

  • Wednesday's Winners & Losers
  • Rangers captain Ryan Callahan might be out for the Rangers' game against the Hurricanes tonight. (Rangers Rants)
  • A look through the mirrors back to an age of smoking in hockey. (SI)
  • The Ducks' slim playoff chances are getting even slimmer now and the team is showing some frustration. (O.C. Register)
  • ECHL coach Nick Vitucci lost his mind with the officials and went on one hell of a tirade. (Puck Daddy)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:40 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:51 am
 

Coyotes complete near-perfect February

TippettBy: Adam Gretz

This is Dave Tippett's ninth year as a head coach in the NHL.

During that time he has missed the playoffs just once, and as recently as a month ago it looked like this season just might in fact be the second time.

After a 2-1 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, it not only looks like his Phoenix Coyotes are going to make a third straight postseason trip (all under Tippett's watch), but they're currently in first place in the Pacific Division thanks to a performance in February that saw the Coyotes go 11-0-1, with the only loss coming in a shootout in Vancouver back on Feb. 13th.

That also happened to be the only game during the month that goaltender Mike Smith did not start, and he pushed his personal winning streak to 11 games with a 39-save performance against the Canucks on Tuesday.

Smith, without much fanfare, signed to a two-year, $4 million contract on July 1 to join the Coyotes, and he has more than filled whatever hole was left by Ilya Bryzgalov when his free agent rights were traded to the Flyers over the summer. His numbers are almost identical to what Bryzgalov put up during his time in Phoenix, while Bryzgalov's production has completely fallen off the map in Philadelphia.

Is it the system? Perhaps. When I spoke to Smith before the season, shortly after he signed in Phoenix, he pointed out how Tippett's defense-first system was attractive and very friendly to goaltenders (keep in mind, Smith played under Tippett for a brief time in Dallas). But right now Smith is simply in a zone and is making every key save the Coyotes need him to make as they continue to grind out wins and chug along against all odds, completely shutting down every opponent they face. That includes the stop Smith made on Mason Raymond during Tuesday's shootout, stopping his spin-o-rama attempt in the second round (starting at the 2:18 mark of the video below).



It's a move that some goaltenders believe is nearly impossible to stop, but Smith simply did not flinch.

During the month of February the Coyotes allowed just 17 goals (not counting "team goals" from shootouts) in 12 games. That includes two shutouts and eight games where they allowed just one goal. What is most impressive about their performance in February is that it came against quality opponents nearly every night. They played just one team with a losing record (Edmonton), and had multiple games with Vancouver, Los Angeles and Calgary, and also knocked off Deroit, Chicago and San Jose. As far as Vancouver and the latter three are concerned, those aren't exactly lightweights in the NHL.

For the month the nine different opponents they faced had a combined record of 262-185-58, and the Coyotes rolled right through them.

After being one of the worst teams in the league in January, they were the best team in hockey in February, and it's put them right back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 3:50 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers and Bruins finally meet

McDonagh's and Seguin's teams renew acquaintances. (Getty Images)

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

Thanks to the scheduling quirks of the NHL, it has taken us until the end of January to get a dose of some real New York-Boston feuding in hockey. No offense to the Devils and the Islanders, but the city-to-city rivalry is reserved for pretty much only the Rangers against the Bruins.

This season, though, the wait has seemed even longer than it really has been. That's because of the little fact that for the first team in a long, long time, the Bruins and Rangers are the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.

There has been some bemoaning lately of the lack of rivalries in hockey. Well this isn't on par with Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, but there's always a little extra flair when it's New York vs. Boston. This one should have a lot of extra flair.

Nobody at this point will dispute the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league this season. You'd be foolish to try. But there are people, myself included, who are still wondering exactly how good are the Rangers? Well what better way to find out than to send them to the hornets’ nest that is TD Garden in Boston to face the defending champs?

Although it’s too bad we could have had this game a week or so ago. By their standards this season, each of these teams has lost some steam going into the game. The Bruins are only 6-4-0 in their last 10 (gasp!) while the Rangers just slightly better at 7-3-0. I laugh about it a little but it was just in the last two weeks that each of these teams had won nine of 10 games.

One of the tricks for each of the coaches is to find ways to keep pushing their guys in the middle of the season, particularly when you've had as much success as these two Original Six squads have. Sometimes that can be as simple as finding a bear to poke (pun clearly intended).

Bruins coach Claude Julien took his poking stick to the midsection of Nathan Horton this week on the Bruins' recent road trip.

"Horton has got to pick up his game. No ifs or buts about it," Julien said after the shootout win at Florida. "A guy his size needs to get more physically involved. He needs to compete a lot harder. He's skating hard, you can see it on the backcheck ... but we need more from him. When he's emotionally engaged, he scores goals and he's a difference-maker. He's got to find his game. We're at the point where we're a little shorthanded and we need him to step up."

Horton responded by scoring twice in the loss to the Lightning and then one more in the win on Thursday night against the Devils. That might be mission: accomplished.

It looks like Rangers coach John Tortorella has his own target to try and prod.

Brad Richards was the star they brought to New York this summer to give Marian Gaborik that other scoring threat and finally give Henrik Lundqvist some much-deserved support. In that regard, Richards has been alright. But that's it.

In 45 games he has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points while carrying a minus-3. That stat still means very little, plus/minus, but on a team like the Rangers, it's tough to be negative. He and Ruslan Fedotenko are the only players on the team with more than 10 games played that are in the red.

Going into the game against the Bruins, Richards hasn't tallied a single point in the last six games. Obviously that's not very good, particularly for a guy making $6.7 million per season.

While Tortorella didn't go anywhere close to the level of criticism that Julien did with Horton, he at least made it known that Richards needs to step up some. From Ranger Rants:

Coach John Tortorella said he didn’t want to analyze individual performances after the game when asked specifically about Staal and Brad Richards. But he acknowledged that Richards’ game wasn’t spot on right now (he was a minus-1 in 16:46 though he won 12 of 16 faceoffs).

If the Rangers can get a point-per-game pace out of Richards like he has been doing for most of the past few seasons, then watch out.

This will be the first of four matchups between the foes this season and each will very likely go a long way in determining who gets home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

If that leaves you wanting more ...

... Then you'll get it. There is no better way to spend Saturday if you're a hockey fan than to tune in to the NHL Network. Once that Rangers-Bruins tilt is done it's on to the next, but it takes no backseat to the first game.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to have a lot of rivalries these days. We all know about their ongoing feud with the Bruins, they have a fierce battle with the Chicago Blackhawks and pretty much any team from Canada.

But don't forget about their rivals to the south in San Jose, too. They've had some damn good playoff battles as well, including that Western Conference final matchup a season ago where Kevin Bieksa was the only person on the ice who knew what the heck was going on.

The Sharks are an interesting team to me. Perhaps it's a situation of just getting used to it, being desensitized to them, but once again they are right there in the race for the Presidents' Trophy this season. Remember, they have games in hand on every single Western Conference team.

Yet they are just quietly trudging along on the West Coast. It's expected from them now to be honest. That's a great compliment to give to the ownership and front office in San Jose.

Unlike the Eastern powers mentioned above, these Western heavies have already met three times this season, so when they dance on Saturday night in Vancouver, it's the last time they'll see each other until next season. Unless ...

Hot, hot, hot!

The Ottawa Senators are 12-2-2 since Kyle Turris came to town. They are in the midst of a very challenging road trip to the West Coast, starting it off with a win on Thursday in San Jose.

When they looked at the itinerary for the road trip, they had to look at the Saturday visit to Anaheim as a little bit of a reprieve on the tough trip. Not anymore.

It took a while, but Bruce Boudreau is seeing the Ducks play the way we all thought they would this season. All of a sudden, these are the two hottest teams in the NHL (what?!?). The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games in their own right.

It's likely well past the time for them to get back into the playoff picture. Even with these 13 points in seven games, they are still 13 points behind Colorado for the eighth spot in the West. What a really strong finish can do, though, is affect the way general manager Bob Murray views his team and thus how much of a seller the Ducks will be at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

In the meantime, each of the Sens and Ducks gets a heat check in one of the few places in either the USA or Canada that it's actually warm right now, Southern California.

Familiar foes

Friday night will feature some old friends facing off as the Florida Blackhawks visit the Chicago Panthers. Wait ...

Since Dale Tallon took over in Florida as general manager, the Panthers have taken on quite a strong feeling of the Blackhawks. They currently carry five former players from Chicago: John Madden, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. Of them, only Skille wasn't a contributor to the Stanley Cup a couple of seasons ago.

To make that happen obviously Tallon had to send some of his Panthers players to GM Stan Bowman in Chicago. It's not as strong the other way but the Blackhawks currently employ former Panthers Michal Frolik, Steve Montador and have Rostislav Olesz and Alexander Salak in the system.

But the player to watch in this battle? How about Andrew Shaw, who is quickly making a big name for himself in Chicago. The 20-year-old forward who was a fifth-round pick by the 'Hawks has five points in the last four games on the strength of a goal in each game. That's led to the Twitter hashtag of #ShawFacts where fans have taken their best Chuck Norris jokes and tailored them for Shaw.

Something else worth watching: With weather conditions as bad as they are in Chicago this weekend, will the Panthers have any problems getting out of town and into Winnipeg in time for their game Saturday against the Jets?

Speak of old friends ...

What would the Tampa Bay Lightning give to have the summer over and keep Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson?

The Bolts will get the chance to see firsthand what has happened to Smith since he moved to the desert this offseason. For those not in the know, what has happened is that he has become a quality starting goaltender for the Coyotes.

The Lightning are giving up more goals than any team in the league. Don't you think Smith and his 2.41 goals against average would be handy in Tampa Bay this season?

Then again, it probably wouldn't be too much different if the defenders in front of Smith were playing the same/as injured as they are in front of Roloson and Mathieu Garon.

Fun doesn't stop Saturday

On Sunday there is a nice pair of battles for matinee games in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins will take on another one of the I-95 corridor powers in the Philadelphia Flyers while the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Washington Capitals for their final bout this season. It might be a bit watered down without Sidney Crosby playing, but it's still worth watching.

Both games are worth it, so get ready to wear out the "last" button on your remote.

We're going streaking!

A look at the winning and losing streaks heading into the weekend.

Penguins: Remember how they just lost six in a row? This is how you rebound from that. The Pens take a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Canadiens before the game against the Caps.

Detroit Red Wings: For the moment, they have taken the lead in the Central Division, which is an unbelievable race this season. Their five straight wins will be put on the line Saturday vs. the Blue Jackets.

St. Louis Blues: They are doing what they can to keep pace with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, and they're doing it just fine. They ride a three-game run into a home game against the Sabres, losers of 10 straight on the road.

Buffalo Sabres: As just mentioned, 10 straight road losses, four in a row overall. Only the one chance in St. Louis to snap it this weekend.

Panthers: They haven't won a game in their last three chances but they have picked up points in two of those three. The double dip this weekend is at Chicago and at Winnipeg.

Minnesota Wild: The ship keeps on sinking. Remember when they were first in the NHL? I hardly do either. Four straight losses and Dallas on tap this weekend.

Dallas Stars: Misery loves company, I suppose. Dallas brings its own losing streak of three games into the weekend, but they get Tampa Bay before facing the Wild.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 12:19 am
 

Mike Smith made one of the saves of the year

By: Adam Gretz

The Phoenix Coyotes lost to the New York Rangers in a shootout on Tuesday night, 2-1, but it's hard to put any of the blame on goaltender Mike Smith. He stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced through regulation and overtime, and did everything he could to keep his team in the game and give them a chance to win.

He only had to face one shot during the five-minute overtime period, and it couldn't have come in a tougher situation as he had to face New York's best goal-scorer, Marian Gaborik, on a penalty shot.

Not only did Smith get the best of Gaborik on the shot, he did so by making one of the best saves we've seen so far this season.



Awesome save. Of course, there's also a bit of luck there as well. If Gaborik gets any sort of elevation on that shot it's in the back of the net and the game ends at that point. But Gaborik didn't, and Smith made the highlights.

Gaborik, however, would get his revenge in the shootout by beating Smith in the third round.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 17, 2011 10:59 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 11:23 pm
 

(Video) Rangers win with 0.1 seconds on clock



By: Adam Gretz


It would be impossible to score a goal later in regulation than the one Brad Richards scored on Saturday night to give the New York Rangers a 3-2 win in Phoenix. We've seen buzzer beater goals in the NHL this season, but none have been as close as this one.

His shot beat Coyotes goalie Mike Smith with just 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock, and it couldn't have possibly been any closer.

Initially it was waived off, and at first glance there didn't appear to be any chance that it was a good goal. But the play was reviewed to make sure the puck crossed the goal line in its entirety before the clock hit zero, and sure it enough, it did. Barely. By the slimmest of margins. The Phoenix Coyotes were that close, probably a matter of inches, to having the game to go overtime and picking up at least a point in the standings.

Instead, they lose in one of the most crushing ways a hockey team can.

"Very frustrating," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett following the game. "When we've seen a number of them like that before. The mistakes keep piling up, and you give away points like that. It's not good."

If nothing else, it's going to be amazing to see the Rangers' reaction to that goal and this win on Wednesday's episode of 24/7 on HBO.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 22, 2011 1:33 pm
 

Coyotes won't go away so long as Tippett stays

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- The Phoenix Coyotes are a little more like another inhabitant of the Southwest, cockroaches. They just won't go away -- speaking both of on-ice ability and relocation. They can survive anything, it seems.

Lose Ilya Bryzgalov? That's alright. Kyle Turris refuses to play for them? They survive.

"It's no secret we don't have an [Alex] Ovechkin or a [Nicklas] Backstrom or a superstar guy like that who's going to get us 50 goals or 150 points," defenseman Keith Yandle said before Monday's game against the Capitals. "It has to be a collective effort in our locker room for us to win games."

There have been some constants through it all in recent seasons, namely coach Dave Tippett. I hesitate to give too much credit to coaches in sport, I believe they are given way too much credit or blame for a team's successes or failures, but it's hard not to praise Tippett's work in Phoenix. As Yandle points out, there is no superstar on this team (Paul Bissonnette's Twitter fame doesn't count here). The closest they come is probably Yandle himself, or veteran Shane Doan.

That's where Tippett comes in. It's starting to look like no coincidence that Bryzgalov's career took off when he began playing under Tippett in the desert. The same is happening now with Mike Smith, the goaltender they signed to be the No. 1 guy despite no track record of being that in the past. He is performing well enough to have the low-scoring Coyotes hanging in the early going with the Pacific Division heavyweights.

It all comes back to the system. Eye On Hockey cohort Adam Gretz looked at the numbers of the Tippett system a ways back and you see the drop in production hasn't been that drastic from Byzgalov to Smith.

"Unless our goalie stands on his head or something like that, or we get a couple of fluke goals, we have a tough time winning if we get out of our system," Yandle said. "That's why our coaches put it in play and they know that's how we have to win.

"Here's the thing with our team: I feel like we get better as we go along. As soon as everybody, so called, buys into the system and does what the coaches want us to do, I think we're a lot better team. It might take us a few games to do that but I think we're on that path. Just taking it in stride right now and trying to do what the coaches want us to do and I think we've been getting better every game."

While the system isn't failing the Coyotes, perhaps the "system" is (that's an attempt at a segue, folks., emphasis on attempt) You know, the system that continues to leave the team's future in the clouds as it remains under NHL control?

Because of that uncertainty -- or probably it's the simple answer that Phoenix just isn't a hockey market -- the Coyotes don't really get the feel of a home game often. If ever.

"We play a road game even at home," Tippett laughed.

You don't need me to tell you the Coyotes don't draw well. This season they are again at the bottom of the league in attendance. So then it should come as no surprise that Phoenix is pretty good on the road.

"We play a pretty simple game. We're expected to compete hard," Tippett said. "You go into a road game, you got to make sure you have your details are good, you're playing the game strong and smart and finding ways to win. That's kind of the way we've been on the road. I think we do the same thing at home, but I think our road stats are a little better right now."

Yandle had a slightly different idea on why they fare well away from the desert.

"We're just the type of team that plays a road-style game where it's just ugly and you try to take crowds out of it," he said. "We try to work a team and not do anything fancy. Maybe on the road we're not trying to impress anyone, we're just trying to play our game to the fullest."

Of course, no story on the Coyotes would be complete without a real mention of Doan, the lifelong Jet/Coyote. For most teams, the last players on the ice for practices and morning skates are the scratches, guys who need a little extra work. For Phoenix, the last player off the ice every time is Doan.

"He's probably one of the best captains of a team I've ever seen around," Tippett said. "He has total respect from his teammates. His attitude and work ethic toward the game is phenomenal. This organization is the only organization he's really known, so he's the been the cornerstone here and he carries that label very well. True face of our franchise and true leader of our franchise."

Doan is third on the team with six goals and six assists. He's first in longevity. He is one of those players that fans often romanticize about, somebody who plays his entire career for one organization. While he still has a few years to go at age 35, it's tough to imagine him up and leaving at this point.

As I said, some things just don't change for this franchise.

Then again, maybe the name Coyotes does fit. After all, Wile. E. Coyote could withstand whatever the Roadrunner did to him.

Photo: Getty Images

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