Second Half, Second Wind
Since New Years Eve, one word could describe the Phoenix Coyotes: Dismal. Four games, four losses and four spots away from the coveted 8th and final playoff spot. Only six goals for and a staggering 21 goals against.
A season proformance tonight in Buffalo changed all that.Winning 2-1 in a shootout does not sound like a very convincing, none the less a season changing victory, but it is quite possibally the greatest game Phoenix has played all season. After giving up the early lead on Buffalo’s first powerplay, goaltender Brian Boucher was perfect, stopping 30 shots, including all 3 in the shootout.
While Boucher may have been the star of the game (actually, he did not get any of the star awards, they gave that to Marty Biron Geoff Sanderson and Jason Pominville, and who says that the star rankings are not home-biased?), his play was supplimented by an outright amazing Phoenix penelty kill. Phoenix killed off 5 penelties, including two 5 on 3’s, one of which was in the overtime period. After this grand display of penelty killing in overtime, Phoenix still managed to pelt Biron with 6 shots in the last 1:59 of the overtime. Biron ended up facing a total of 40 shots, turning away 39 and allowing only one goal in the shootout. Phoenix’s only regulation goal came early in the 3rd period a la Oleg Saprykin.
So you ask again, why is this game so important?
1: It ended the goaltending funk Phoenix has been stuck in, a solid proformance by Boucher will eather earn him the starting job or pressue CuJo to elevate his game to keep it.
2: It proved to Phoenix that they can compete with a top rate team without scoring half a dozen goals.
3: It gives Phoenix momentum going into the second half of the season, and gives Wayne some strong points to reenforce for Saturday’s game in Toronto.
Phoenix needs to elevate their play if they really want to have a chance to make the playoffs. If tonight’s game is any sign of what is to come, Coyotes fans have a lot to howl about.