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Coyotes/Red Wings Analysis, Habs/Caps Preview

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The Phoenix Coyotes are done.

They pushed the two-time defending conference champion Detroit Red Wings to the brink before petering out in game seven, effectively losing to the conference’s one seed dressed as a five.

Sadly, game seven looked like the last lap of a 1500 meter Olympic race, where the leader came out of the gate sprinting instead of pacing himself.  There was simply nothing left in the Coyotes tank.

Detroit took it to them for the majority of the game, starting from a Martin Hanzal penalty early in the first, and carrying on until Nicklas Lidstrom’s second goal, for which he immediately looked sincerely apologetic. 

Positives were few and far between for the home squad.  One, was that it might have been the best performance from a goalie who gave up six goals I’ve ever seen.  The Wings were just relentless, and as you expect from a proven team, just when they needed to get it done they got big performances from their stars.

GeeDubGee

Datsyuk looked unflappable.  Captain Nick Lidstrom sniped a pair.  Even some sasquatch named Bodd Tertuzzi or something scored.  When the core of a team who’s won the Cup once and the conference twice in the last two playoffs has the switch flipped to “on”, you expect it to look like that 6-1 win did.  (I found myself cursing the Coyotes for beating LA and Nashville down the stretch… wait for playoffs!  Dress your back-ups back-up!  LET GRETZKY COACH.)

The Coyotes were missing Shane Doan, arguably the biggest cog in their team-first machine.  With him in the lineup, who’s to say how momentum changes?  Doan played like a man possessed when he was in the lineup, which would undeniably affected Detroits older d-corp over a long series.  It could have been one more straw on the back of Detroits camel (what?).

Oh we're so totally gonna hug right now.

Between the pipes, there’s only one play I’m pinning on the Almighty Bryz – Brad Stuart’s goal, which was Detroits fourth, scored in the period’s dying seconds, HAS to be stopped.  I realize it’s a breakaway and a tough save, but great goalies come up big in big moments, and that fourth goal was a twist of the knife in Phoenix’s side.  And it was Brad Stuart half-falling, not Pavel Datsyuk opening up before pulling it cross-crease.  Phoenix needed a save there, and when they didn’t get it, I would’ve flipped to a different game had one been on.

At the other end, Jimmy Howard made 32 saves in a one (bad) goal against performance.  If you’re like me, you didn’t feel fully comfortable that he would play well in there (the same way Luongo makes me feel).  And though he did play well (great at times), he had the luxury of not facing any tough shots until his team was up about three goals.  Not taking anything away from the guy (who again, 1.00 G.A. in his first game seven, rookie year), but it’s a little easier to play when the team in front of you looks like they put in a pre-game cheat code.

So that’s where it ends for this year’s Cinderella story.  The carriage is a pumpkin again, but good will come of this, Coyotes fans.  You guys got your team “back”, a lot of attention, and plenty of hope for the future.  And Wojtek Wolski!

(I’m writing a more thorough analysis for a column I’ve pitched to the AZ Republic as a bookend to my pre-season column.  I’ll keep you posted on that)

*****

As we move closer to round two’s start, I’ve been thinking about a comment the blog received yesterday (totally random thought before I forget – blog hits have been killer for a non-team-specific site.  Almost 9,000 hits last week or something like that, so thanks so much for your support.  And that includes you crazy Maple Leaf fans sent this way via DownGoesBrown).  It’s a valid point on why predictions are interesting to read – basically, it’s fun to assess what’s fair to expect, not what will happen.  The comment is towards the bottom, by reader “Brett”.  Check it out here.

*****

Mini preview, Capitals Habs:

Here’s what’s “fair to expect” tonight.

Underdogs often succeed by outworking the superior club that’s trying to get by on talent alone.  And thus far, Washington has tried to get by on talent alone.

Now it’s like the Capitals are in the library working on a bonus credit project they need just to pass at the end of the semester, while their friends are out drinking because their semester is over.  Had the Caps just done the work in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this situation.  (*author may or may not be able to relate to this)

Halak's eyes are on Ovy.

Anyways, if work ethic is equal, which it should be in a game seven, the Capitals will smoke the Habs like salmon, the same way Detroit showed who they really were when the chips were down.

The Caps, for all the unnecessary abuse they take {and they do take abuse, it’s crazy.  I’m no Caps fan, but it’s like old school hockey people are annoyed that they have the gall to think they can win playing a tic-tac-toe style over a (*coughslightly-more-Canadian*cough) boom-bam-hit-and-jam playoff style}, the Capitals have won some playoff games with this team. 

Their style is money.  If they had half a goalie, they’d be unstoppable (I guess Theodore is small enough to qualify for half).  For all of you that want less concussions and more skill, cheer for teams like the Capitals that apparently have a team-imposed “everyone touch it before we shoot” rule.  Something about their style reminds me of ultimate frisbee.

Halak looked unbeatable in game six, but that had to be a tiring night.  Players always have trouble falling asleep after high-intensity games - more on that in the future, it’s awful.  So he gets a short sleep, hops on a plane, maybe touches the ice once in two days before tonights game, and tries to give a repeat performance.  But if (no no, when), the Caps generate another 40-50 shots (money on the higher number there), I can’t see him doing it again unless he’s in crazy good shape.  Hey, maybe Price’s start will end up helping him in this series after all. 

Montreal has one thing Phoenix didn’t – a couple guys who can make game-breaking plays.  Cammalleri (and even Gomez if he blacks out) can do it.

Montreal’s best hope is to challenge Washington’s shaky goaltending and offense-first defenseman in the first period (after weathering the initial storm), and see if they can’t get one more out of a jello-legged Halak.  Cause you never know.  You never know.

But sometimes, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

5-2 Capitals.

Comments

14 Responses to “Coyotes/Red Wings Analysis, Habs/Caps Preview”
  1. Char says:

    I felt so sorry for Shane Doan last night. He must have been going crazy.

    I can’t believe I’m rooting for the Habs tonight. Ack.

  2. Alanna says:

    Bad few days for Ulf Samuelsson. ‘Yotes fall out of the playoffs and his kid, a freshman D at BC, gets arrested for underage drinking in a debacle of a car accident.

  3. Dan says:

    I hope you’re right about the Capitals tonight. As a die-hard fan, however, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t expect them to lose. It’s hard to get 30 years of playoff failure out of my head. I love them, but this franchise has to be one of the hardest teams to be a fan of in all of sports.

  4. Jhett says:

    Seems all to frequent that there is a series similar to the Wings-Coyotes where there is a great series going on, then it goes to game seven……and one team just dismantles the other. I’ve noticed it happening in the NBA playoffs as well. Just taking all the drama out of it. Kind of disappointing.

  5. saskhab says:

    That’s Huet in your picture, not Halak. Halak is smaller and wears #41, plus he doesn’t suck.

  6. jtbourne says:

    Haha, bonus points for you saskhab. I’m leaving the picture though just so Huet feels more included in playoffs.

  7. Sherry says:

    Seemed to me that the Yotes got schooled by the Wings last night – couldn’t watch the end of the game. Really nice piece at Hockey Primetime Justin.

    Go Habs!

  8. christina says:

    Thanks for the honorable mention.. I especially like the part where you refer to us leafs fans as crazy lol mostly because its true… but at least we can admit it too :) In our defense though, there are 2 types of leafs fans – the ones who believe leafs hockey is the only hockey (and I pity that type as well) and the ones who appreciate all hockey and know there are bigger and better things out there, despite their love for the blue and white. We can diversify too!

    Great column, it’s really too bad for the coyotes but I guess we all saw that one coming. I have a hard time commenting on this series tonight because I dont like the caps (I’m also a penguins fan.. these rivalries are messing up my head) and I naturally hate the habs.. but… go …habs …go :$

  9. neil says:

    Kudos to the Habs for going to game 7 in a series that most figured would be over in 5 (although my Habs friends were all over the “Habs in 7″ line and they are feeling pretty smart right now). Should be a great game tonight, obviously Halak is playing out of his mind but the Caps haven’t looked quite right in the playoffs, not as fluid offensively as they usually do and Semin has been a mess. Poti is apparently out indefinitely. GO HABS!

    I feel bad for Phoenix, it’s presumably a testament to Detroit’s game that the Yotes couldn’t find theirs in game 7. They did such a good job of grinding Detroit down in previous victories that I really expected a 3-2 or 4-2 kinda game, but I guess that’s how it goes when you have Datsyuk and Lidstrom on your team in game 7. AWESOME to see the standing O and chanting from the Yotes fans, and in terms of building a fanbase, this is essentially how you do it (I believe this was pointed out by both Shane Doan and a certain victimized hockey blogger). So now the big question is, will regular-season hockey work in Phoenix if the team has a legitimate shot at a good playoff run?

  10. Sherry says:

    What’s with the little quilt squares for those of us lame enough to not have one of those little picture thingys?…

  11. jtbourne says:

    Neil – that was neat at the end of the game, wasn’t it? A nice show of respect for all the team accomplished this year. If they can make a supporter out of a me in the one year I lived here, I’m sure they attracted plenty of converts this year.

    As for how they’ll fare next year…. I’ll probably column my thoughts at some point (and sell them, wee!), but on the whole, I think it’ll be like the housing market here. It hit rock bottom, and you’ll start to see a slow turnaround back to reasonable (which makes it a good purchase for Reinsdorf). If the team can threaten for home ice again, I bet it’s a pretty solid spike. I know they’ve got my attention.

    Sherry – I was trying to find an option where my links would be opened in a new tab or window when you click on them, and found some other stuff. There used to be a blank silhouette there which was uber-generic, so I switched it to those random thingy’s, which are generated by what type of email address you put in or something.

  12. Sherry says:

    Cool – we’re all goin’ a quiltin’!

  13. Steve C. says:

    Another great article Justin.
    Too bad about last night’s loss…I was rooting for the Coyotes (& the Kings). Both teams are young enough to contend for the next few years. I’m just glad to see hockey regaining popularity again in unlikely places.

  14. nightfly says:

    Man, that goal by Datsyuk… stupid good. It reminds me of that old commercial with Fetisov scoring on a net guarded by five goalies.

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