The Phoenix Coyotes weren’t able to stop the shot barrage that the Los Angeles Kings have put on this series, but they were able to mitigate it and redirect it, and that was enough for goalie Mike Smith to deliver the Coyotes a 2-0 win in Game 4 of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals and avoid a sweep.
Los Angeles got 36 shots on Smith, who’s routinely faced 40-plus throughout these playoffs. Normally a 36-21 shot edge like the Kings had will win you a game, but not only was Smith in lockdown form, but Los Angeles was not as successful getting the puck in the hands of their best players. Five shots were taken by defenseman Drew Doughty and five more by non-descript center Trevor Lewis. That’s a lot less scary than the puck being in the hands of Dustin Penner, Dustin Brown or Anze Kopitar. While Penner got four shots, the other two only combined for that same number.
Phoenix may not have pounded LA goalie Jonathan Quick with raw volume, but their key offensive players finally awoke. Shane Doan scored off an assist from Ray Whitney on a first period power play, and then Doan scored again, this time off an assist from Antoine Vermette in the second period. Doan, Whitney and Vermette are all important to the Phoenix offense and all have been virtually non-existent for the first three games.
Tonight the Eastern Conference has its Game 4, as New Jersey faces a must-win at home, trailing the New York Rangers 2-1 in games. This series is coming off Henrik Lundqvist’s brilliant goaltending performance in the Game 3 win and you wonder if, given how well the Devils otherwise played, if that isn’t the kind of game that can suck the life out of a team. I picked this series to go seven games at the start and I’m not changing, but I’m also on alert tonight to see if New Jersey folds, or if Lundqvist is about to go on one of these extreme hot runs that good goalies can do in the NHL playoffs.