It’s been a long time to be stranded in the playoff desert. 25 years to be exact. But finally, after a quarter of a century of coming up dry, the Phoenix Coyotes found their oasis. The Coyotes shutout the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 in Game 6, clinching the series 4-2, and advancing to the second round. The last time the Coyotes franchise made it to round 2, they were in Winnipeg under the old Jets incarnation.
The game itself was owned by Mike Smith who made 39 saves to record his first ever playoff shutout. 16 of those saves came in the first period, as the Blackhawks completely dominating the Coyotes in all facets of the game. But Smith stayed strong, making some spectacular saves including stopping nemesis Andrew Shaw on a 2 on 1 midway through the opening stanza.
The second period saw more of the same, as the Blackhawks stormed out of the gate. But once again, Smith kept the door shut. His best save of the night happened early in the frame, as he robbed Brendan Morrison point-blank with a pad save after Morrison was set up wonderfully by Jonathan Toews. Not long after, Toews took an interference penalty, and the Coyotes capitalized. Defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has been a tower of strength in this series for the Coyotes, fired home his first ever playoff goal, past a screened Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks responded by putting more pressure in the Phoenix end, but Smith answered every Blackhawk attempt. Through two periods Chicago outshot Phoenix 28-8, but it was the Coyotes going into the second intermission with the lead.
The roof caved in for the Blackhawks in the third period as the Coyotes erupted for three goals to clinch the series. Gilbert Brule finished off a gorgeous pass from Kyle Chipchura to give the Coyotes a two goal cushion. Then after Jimmy Hayes received a five-minute boarding major for running Michal Roszival from behind, Antoine Vermette notched his fourth of the series. Finally Chipchura sealed the deal 1:52 later on a wraparound.
3 Reasons Why The Coyotes Won The Series:
1. Mike Smith outplayed Corey Crawford. In the playoffs, goaltending means so much, and in this series, Smith was superior. Whenever the Coyotes needed a big save from their goalie, Smith gave it to them. Meanwhile Crawford wasn’t horrible, but he didn’t make the big save when needed. The overtime goals in Games 3 and 4 that Crawford conceded were questionable, and he needed to make those saves.
2. Special Teams.
The Coyotes special teams were better than the Blackhawks. The Hawks were a putrid 1 for 19 on the power play in the series. The Coyotes were a little better, going 4 for 19, but in a series that was so close, that little advantage helped the Coyotes win the series.
3. Road Warriors.
The Coyotes weren’t intimidated by the noisy confines of the United Centre. In fact, they relished it. Phoenix won all three games in Chicago, effectively silencing the crazy fans in Chicago. Phoenix kept their composure at all times, fought off any adversity, and deserved to win the series.
1. Mike Smith
2. Kyle Chipchura
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson
The Coyotes move on to face the Nashville Predators in the second round. The NHL has not decided as of when the series will start.