Signs.

Game in a Yogi Berra quote:

It’s deja vu all over again.

Observations:

- The Blackhawks came out of the gate firing again and got the early lead. They’ve clearly come into each game with the right approach and mindset, it’s simply just a matter of carrying that through a full 60 minutes of a game.

- The Coyotes responded right away with stronger puck play and cycling behind the Blackhawks goal. Shane Doan was a real catalyst for them throughout the game as a Niklas Hjlamarsson hit really seemed to wake him up and get him going. His feed to Torres on the first Coyotes goal was the byproduct of outworking Duncan Keith behind the net by himself and showing the patience to make the right pass. He did it all game long.

- I’m amazed how much of the Coyotes power play runs through their point men. Obviously Keith Yandle is a huge asset this way as one of the more talented offensive defensemen in the game, but to have both of your power plays goals carry assists from the two point men on the ice is very cool to see. I’m willing to bet part of it is how well they keep their space along the blueline. It forces the penalty kill to spread itself out much more than most standard umbrella sets I’ve seen. Part of Dustin Byfuglien’s success in Atlanta last season was because of how well he and Tobias Enstrom maintained a gap between themselves.

- What is it about the Blackhawks that brings out the best in Raffi Torres? This year’s series and last year’s series against the Canucks were some of the best games from Torres I’ve seen since his days in Edmonton. He’s bringing the right kind of grit to this series.

- The goaltending duel continued as Corey Crawford and Mike Smith are matching one another save for save. Smith is obviously being forced to make a few more, but that is largely due to the conservative nature of Phoenix’s system. Both teams have to be very happy with their goaltending to this point in time.

- As far as the Mike Smith-Andrew Shaw thing, I think the right decision was made to send Shaw off if for no other reason than to keep the game under control unlike the two earlier games this evening. I don’t think Smith was faking injury either and I really have to question the decision to leave him in the game. Smith has had several concussions in his career and I can’t help but think that if this was a regular season game he would have been taken out. This struck me as a total “screw it, it’s the playoffs, leave me in” type of move, and in this instance players need to be saved from their own competitiveness.

- Bryan Bickell seems to finally be embracing his role in the Blackhawks system. I had high hopes for him offensively this season that didn’t pan out as he didn’t seem to get the scoring chances Dustin Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer did as the prime power forwards on the team. After a nine goal regular season, Bickell got two tonight and both came in tight to the goal. Obviously both involved luck but it’s good to see him converting those chances.

- Jonathan Toews was great again for the Blackhawks. The guy is just something else when it counts.

- I’d still like to see more from Patrick Kane. He continues to be incredibly passive with the puck.

- I know they operate under the “boring wins games” credo but the Coyotes really need to get more aggressive late in games because they’ve been bitten twice by their willingness to sit back. They had two more shots on goal in 10 minutes of overtime than they did for the entire third period. A one goal lead against this Blackhawks team is not safe as they have proven plenty of times in this series. Go out and make it more.

- Don’t want to take anything away from the Phoenix defensive job, they’ve been exceptional. You would be hard pressed to find a team that’s better at clogging up the middle of the ice. Maybe Nashville or St. Louis but that’s probably it. The Coyotes look an awful lot like the Tampa Bay team that went far last season. Antoine Vermette can be Sean Bergenheim.

- I picked Phoenix to win this series but I really like Chicago’s chances after getting a road split. We’ve seen an electric United Center the last two playoffs and I suspect it won’t be any quieter or easier to play in for this Phoenix team. Game three should be more fun.

My Three Stars:

1) Bryan Bickell
2) Mike Smith
3) Antoine Vermette

Comments (3)

  1. Are you kidding me?Mike Smith… Oscar performance by a goalie.It seems he wasn’t hurt bad enough that he could still continue.He looked like a soccer player out there…writhing in so called pain.It used to be that if goalies left the crease they were fair game…you took your chances.(Ah the good old days). I must have been hit about 10 times a season when I played.Today “s players are too soft and not respectful of one another.Seems like all of the games on Sat. had atleast 1incedent. Sheriff Shanny may be busy.Good hockey though.

  2. Bryan Bickell’s goals lucky? I swear this website is so biased it’s unbelievable!!!

  3. What’s lucky about whacking in a rebound that is three feet off the ice? The OT goal was a fortunate bounce off Stalberg’s shin pad, so granted a bit of a good bounce there.

    Mike Smith should be playing with the Sedins with that dive. It was a penalty – 2 min – and if the NHL is serious about getting rid of the soccer mentality, it should have been 2 min on Smith as well.

    If it indeed was a serious “head shot” how come Smith didn’t have to go to the quiet room? It’s amazing that the best cure for any injury is the roar of the crowd once the score clock shows “PP: 5:00″.

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