GLENDALE — Now that’s more like it. Mike Smith stopped 30 shots and the PhoenixCoyotes got power play goals from Keith Yandle and Radim Vrbata as they shut out the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a regular season record crowd of 17,525.
Yandle got things going early, as Shane Doan drew a tripping penalty at just 1:01 of the first period, with Yandle scoring on the power play just eight seconds later. Yandle’s seventh goal of the season was assisted by Mikkel Boedker and Antoine Vermette.
The Coyotes would add on at 18:29 of the second period when Vrbata buried his 14th goal in the back of the net, assisted by Mike Ribeiro and Yandle. From there, it was all Smith, doing his best brick wall impression in the Coyotes’ net.
Smith faced just three shots on the power play, as the Coyotes killed both Blackhawk power plays with relative ease, while scoring on two of their own five. The Coyotes were outshot 30-26, including 9-2 in the third period, but they did outhit the Blackhaws 34-16.
The Coyotes have surpassed the Vancouver Canucks for the second wild card spot, with one game left before the Olympic break. While it’s great to get some rest, the Coyotes would rather continue with the momentum and keep racing up the standings.
Coyotes by the Numbers
4 — Just four points separate the Coyotes from the next four teams chasing them for that final wild card spot.
67 percent — The Coyotes won 6-of-9 (67 percent) faceoffs on their own power play.
8 — Jeff Halpern recorded a game-high eight hits, while winning 5-of-6 faceoffs.
Keith Yandle had a very solid game, scoring a goal and assisting on another. He blocked two shots and recorded a takeaway in his 23:07 on the ice. For the Coyotes to succeed in the playoffs, Yandle will need to continue with this kind of production.
Runt of the Litter
It’s hard to single anyone out when the Coyotes win via a shutout, but will pick on Mike Ribeiro tonight. He won just 5-of-15 faceoffs and didn’t get a shot on goal. That’s unusual for him and while he did record an assist, the loss of faceoffs (and ultimately puck control) could have really hurt his team.
The Coyotes will travel to Texas to face the Dallas Stars on Saturday, Feburary 8. This will be their last game before the Olympic break.