Critical Points Left on Table by Phoenix Coyotes


Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

On their last legs, it was either “put up” or “shut up” time for the Coyotes—unfortunately; they chose the latter.

Shut up may be a little bit too harsh.  Maybe shut out is more appropriate, considering that’s exactly what they were.  Then again, this is nothing new to Pekka Rinne, the outstanding Nashville Predators goaltender.  Trying to score against the Predators impenetrable wall in between the pipes proved futile as Rinne stopped all 29 shots that came his way on this night, blanking Phoenix, leading to a 2-0 Predators win.

Rinne was not the only sensational goalie on this night.  For all the criticism he has received, Thomas Greiss played a splendid game in net on Thursday night.  Keeping the Predators at only two goals is an accomplishment in itself with all the odd-man chances he turned away.  While he may not be at the all-pro level of Mike Smith, Greiss has certainly proven himself a more than capable netminder for a team in this league.

Now capsizing in historic fashion, the Coyotes have lost their last six games.  Even after the horrific injury to Mike Smith, the team was able to pull out two difficult road wins in Pittsburgh and New Jersey.  It has been since March 27 the Coyotes have gained more than a single point from a contest.

Quite simply, the offense just was not there.  Outside of an early onslaught of shots and chances, the attack up front was predictable and ultimately corralled by the young guns on defense for the Predators.  The overall shots on goal for the game are deceiving due to the ‘Yotes torrid pace at both the beginning and the end of the game, but it cannot count for their disheveled effort for the other 45 minutes while on the ice. 

After Rob Klinkhammer went off for high-sticking, Phoenix came close to killing the penalty.  However, with just 11 seconds remaining on the power play, Craig Smith found the back of the net, staking Nashville to a 1-0 lead. 

As mentioned earlier, Greiss was not able to stop every shot thrown his way on this night.  Thus, Patric Hornqvist poked in his 21st goal of the season on a rebound midway through the third period as seemingly all the air was taken out of the Coyotes sails.

With their two best defenseman logging nearly half the game on the ice, both Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson can understandably be getting tired.  Such an onus is placed on the defense with Smith not in goal that both men have to be such dynamic two-way players in a way they didn’t always have to be.  In a game where a point was crucial, the Coyotes leave Tennessee with a big ol’ goose egg.

Only two games remain on the calendar for Phoenix, and they are the only two that are promised.  In fact, should they fall on Saturday to San Jose in regulation while Dallas picks up a point of any kind, the enormity of the encounter on Sunday shrivels up. 

Thankfully, the hand the Stars were dealt is not all that kind.  They get to play at home, albeit against a club desperate for the Western Conference’s number one seed, the St. Louis Blues.  By no means will either club be taking their foot off the pedal.

The next time the Coyotes take to the ice will be Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.  Puck drop is scheduled for 6 P.M. down at Arena where the Coyotes will be fighting for their playoff livelihoods.