The Phoenix Coyotes have moved to within one win of advancing, as they got a critical road win against Nashville in Game 4. On a quiet night in the NHL with just this one game, it was even quieter, as virtually all the action took place in the first period.
Coyote forward Shane Doan got the game’s only goal with about five minutes left in a period that saw each team take three penalties apiece, including a fight that created a 4-on-4 situation for five minutes. After that the play got clean, the defenses settled in and with two great goaltenders in Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne, it was lights out.
Smith, after a rough performance in Phoenix’s Game 3 loss, came back and turned away all 25 Nashville shots. Rinne saved 23 of 24. The fairly modest shot volume tells you the defenses were doing the job in front of the goalies and further delving into the box score shows the best offensive players weren’t getting the looks. Although I guess I big part of that comes from the fact Phoenix has no great offensive players—but even their good ones—Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney, didn’t get many opportunities, and Nashville’s shot leader was defenseman Ryan Suter with four. The Preds are a team dependent on their defenseman for offense as well as D, and the lack of a great scorer on the frontline certainly shows in situations like this.
Saturday’s another one game day, but New York’s crucial Game 4 in Washington will be nationally televised by NBC at 12:30 PM ET. Bounce-back is going to be the big theme of this one as the teams come off their triple overtime battle on Wednesday night. So far in this series, the Rangers have gotten their key offensive people involved, and Marian Gaborik seems to coming to life. If the Capitals defense can’t develop an appropriate response it’s going to be very tough for them to win any more games, much less the series. The shot totals for Gaborik and Ryan Callahan are the hidden stat I’m watching in this one.