After falling behind 3-0 after the 1st period. The Coyotes went into the locker room and had 2 choices. Pack it in and get ready for Calgary on Thursday. Or, come out and play Coyote Hockey and keep the pedal to the metal in the playoff push. The Coyotes answered to a loud partisan crowd, scored 3 power play goals, and beat LA Kings 5-4. You read that right. 3 Power Play Goals. They had 3 power play goals in the last 10 games prior to Tuesday night at Jobing.com.
The chant of Beat LA reverberated through the arena as the Coyotes came back to tie the game late in the 3rd period. How did they get here? 2 goals by Captain Shane Doan, 2 by Radim Vrbata. Verby got his 30th goal of the year, a power play goal where he again waits for the goalie to make a move and then he punishes them. Shane got his 18th. Shane was the top goal scorer for the Yotes last year with 20 goals. Vrbata has a chance to get to 40. The goals were set up by hard work by Martin Hanzal in front of the goal and the face off circle. Gilbert Brule was all over every lose puck in the neutral zone. Rafi Torres was flying and doing what he does best. Hitting, grinding, being sand paper. And sticking up for his teammates. Rafi ready to throw down to protect his teammates. Last week in LA, when Mike Smith went after Anze Kopitar, it was Rafi Torres who came flying in to the defense of his teammate behind the goal. Literally. All you see is him 90 degrees to the ice. Superman pose. Ready to punch and crush the King who gets in his way. Tonight, after Brule takes the elbow to the head, who is there to help Keith Yandle support Brule and beat down Clifford? Torres.
I was critical of Rafi’s play in an article a couple of weeks ago. I was of the opinion that he wouldn’t learn to play defense and that he would not be a good fit for the team. I was wrong. He is there to stick up for his teammates whenever fisticuffs break out on the ice. He is forechecking and blocking shots with his body. Paul Coffey recently said on NHL Home Ice “They always ask defensive players to give some more scoring. They never ask the scorers to play more defense.” Rafi is providing both. I was wrong and apologize to Rafi, for doubting the wisdom and magic of GMDM, and to Coach Tippett in getting him to buy in to the Coyote system.
The overtime period brought the always lovely to hear “Beat LA” chant and both sides getting the cycle working to put shots on the goalie. Both goalies held strong and to the shootout we went. I was sitting next to a family from Saskatchewan and they were rooting for the Coyotes. First off, the Coyotes had more players who had grown up there or played in neighboring towns. Second, they were getting bonus hockey! Dave Tippett looks like a genius for putting Mikkel Boedker out there in the shootout against Vancouver as he has regained his touch. That or the fact I asked for him to sit and let Paul Bissonnette to play in the “Free Biznasty” piece from last week.
Some thoughts post game (the server for this site was down last night and this is the first I have been able to catch up).
- Defense is our strength. Losing Rusty Klesla for a short term can be adapted for and overcome. Long term, no. I pray his injury is of a short duration.
- The power play is working with Ray Whitney running it and Hanzal in front of the goal. Shane and Vrbata the snipers, Keith out for defense and passing. The more power plays we get, the more minutes they get and the more chances they have. Conversely, I don’t want to wear out Whitney.
- Ray Whitney makes everyone on the ice a better player. Worth every penny we pay him. If you get open, he will find you.
- Mike Smith does not get rattled. Calm in the storm.
- Coach Tippett calls a great game plan and has the team prepared each night.
- Chris Summers is the future. Plays great now, but give him more games to get used to the speed and he will be lights out.
Some images from last night.