3 for 5 ... for seven
There will be a Game 7 in Arizona on Tuesday.
The Phoenix Coyotes pulled out the big guns with their backs against the wall. Aggressive, no-quit control on the puck. Hitting even the hardest of hitters on the Detroit side. Defensemen pinching up on each attack. Presence in front of the net. And lo and behold...
A FUNCTIONAL POWER PLAY?
Say it ain't so. A passing grade: 3/5, heavy upgrade over the previous score (which frankly is too depressing to even try to look up, but you can bet there are many appearances by the number zero). Why it took this long to get a bona fide solution, who also goes by the name Mathieu Schneider, for the man-advantage we'll never know. But it was his goal that really got things going in Game 6, and not just on the Phoenix side. Detroit panicked enough to muster a response 24 seconds later, and looked to continue outshooting the Coyotes as they were until that point, that is before Ilya Bryzgalov and the Phoenix defense-corps put up a brick wall before them. A little help from the iron, a little opportunism, and a lot of jittered nerves heading into Tuesday (for now I speak only for myself on that last point).
This game was pretty much the exact recipe for success that the Coyotes need to now win the series. But the Red Wings are more than likely sitting there saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice--shame on me." The shorthanded marker by Lauri Korpokoski took the wind out of their sails in the first period, having led the charge 14-6 in shots before the end of 20 minutes. They'll look to catch the Coyotes off guard the first chance they get, which is why a few wild cards are going to have to come into play.
- The likeliness or unlikeliness of Shane Doan's return is unclear, but given recent practice notes it's probably unwise to bank on the Phoenix captain's presence on the ice no matter the outcome. As much as the Coyotes would love to see him and as much as he'd love to be there Game 7, there's gotta be a plan B, as has been improvised (with success!) since his injury.
- Lee Stempniak, where are you? While he has provided a share of Phoenix's physical presence, pardon the expression, but dude can't buy a goal.
- Power play, keep doing what you're doing. Even when Schneider wasn't on the ice, duos like that of Derek Morris and Keith Yandle were firing all cylinders at Jimmy Howard. Net traffic or not, the offensive-minded D strategy is one of Phoenix's strengths, one that they will (and should!) continue to use in a variety of situations.
- Penalty kill, same deal. The final outshot was by a small margin, but a great deal of blocked shots were also accounted for--and Korpikoski's marker proved the Coyotes' capacity to turn the play the other way.
In all, Tuesday night should be buzzing at Jobing.com Arena. Whether home ice truly proves to be a factor remains to be seen, especially as each team has won in the other's arena the same amount of times.