Game In a Sentence: The Blackhawks were far from their best with their backs against the wall, and while they peppered Mike Smith and the Coyotes with shots, they failed to generate many great scoring chances, ultimately falling to a better Coyotes team, who win their first playoff series since moving to Phoenix.
- If you missed this game and checked a boxscore, you might get the impression that the Blackhawks totally dominated Game 6 and unluckily came out on the losing end, but the numbers are misleading. As I mentioned above, Chicago fired a ton of shots on net, but they didn’t exactly generate a crazy number of scoring chances, and I never got the feeling that they were controlling the game. Don’t get me wrong, they were probably the better team on this night, but I don’t think they dominated the game or dictated the pace as much as the shots on goal would suggest.
- Mike Smith was solid in net, picking up the shutout with an impressive 39 saves. Smith obviously had to be sharp to pick up the series clinching victory, and he was, but he didn’t need to be spectacular. Corey Crawford, on the other hand, was shaky to say the least, allowing four goals on just 20 shots against. Crawford finished the series with a disappointing .893 save percentage, allowing 17 goals on 159 total Phoenix shots. Suffice to say, that’s usually not going to be good enough to win a series, let alone make a deep playoff run.
- I mentioned that Smith didn’t need to be as spectacular as you might expect in a 39-save shutout, but he did make a great pad save on Brendan Morrison in the second period that looked like it was destined to be the game’s first goal.
The significance of this stop cannot be overstated, as the Coyotes opened the scoring eight minutes later and never looked back, while the Blackhawks never really produced another chance as good as this one. It should be noted that for as nice a save as it was, Morrison could have changed the complexion of this game, and maybe of the series, by lifting the puck here.
- Outside of Smith, no one was more noticeable in this game than Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who opened the scoring with a powerplay goal in the second period, added an assist on Phoenix’s third goal, had four of his team’s 20 shots and blocked a couple of shots in a game-high 26:50 of ice time. Not bad for a 20-year-old blueliner, huh?
- The Coyotes were probably already smooth sailing up 2-0 midway through the third period with Smith playing as well as he was, but the Blackhawks put the final nail in their own coffin by taking a careless penalty at the worst possible time. Jimmy Hayes put Michal Rozsival into the boards from behind at the 8:47 mark of the third, collecting a five-minute boarding major and a misconduct. Chicago was actually able to muster some chances despite being down a man, but it was only a matter of time before Phoenix put this series to bed with a couple more goals.
- The Coyotes/Jets franchise hadn’t won a playoff series since Winnipeg ousted Calgary in the Smythe Division semifinals way back in 1987. Meanwhile, this was the first time in franchise history that the Blackhawks lost three games in Chicago in a playoff series.
- The Coyotes will now match up with the fourth seeded Predators in the Western Conference semifinals, and thanks to their Pacific Division title, will have home ice advantage in that series. Hands up if you had the West’s final four pegged as Blues, Coyotes, Predators and Kings in October…yeah, me neither.
My Three Stars:
1. Mike Smith
2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson
3. Antoine Vermette