Antoine Vermette took the ice last night in Arizona, but this time in a whole different uniform. Just shy of two weeks after being traded from Arizona his new team, the Chicago Blackhawks, faced off against the Coyotes on his old home ice. Vermette seems to have already acclimated himself well to the Blackhawks system. Directing team “traffic” during the power play from the bench, and playing at the pace the Blackhawks are known for.
A nice video montage was played during the game to honor the ex-Coyote and all of his efforts during his 3+ seasons with the club.
‘Hawks fans travel well
You know the Blackhawks are in the house when it feels like you’re at the United Center during the national anthem-the cheers are so loud. Blackhawks fans definitely travel well. Gila River Arena was sold out-17,534 people in attendance- meaning that the team was down to standing room only. The crowd was loud and rowdy, something that goaltender Mike Smith said is “exciting” no matter who they are rooting for.
Opposite sides of the spectrum
The pace of the Coyotes game varies greatly from the Blackhawks. Chicago plays fast, and they are a really physical team. They’re going to hit, and they’re going to pressure any team that they face. They have the offense to overpower a team like the Coyotes who lack in this area, even without star forward Patrick Kane. To even stay in the game, the Coyotes knew that they would have to play a full 60-minutes, something that they’ve struggled with all season long.
The Coyotes are now almost entirely comprised of young players. This was the intention, but you play a team like the Blackhawks and they play at a whole different velocity. Veterans like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp can control a game, and have the capability of being high goal scorers.
What went wrong?
Even though they gave up a goal early, the Coyotes penalty kill was- once again- the best part of their game. Arizona has now killed off 19 of their last 22 penalties. Out of the seven penalties that the Coyotes were given, they killed off five of them. The Blackhawks only scoring was on their power plays, and it’s astounding that out of the seven, they only scored on two.
“You give a team like that too many power plays, they’ll burn you. It was a good lesson.”- Mike Smith on Blackhawks PP opportunities
The Blackhawks somehow weren’t able to score the amount of goals that they were given the opportunity, and this was a huge factor as to why the games final score was only 2-1. The Coyotes gave up way too many chances in their defensive zone, and left their goaltender to do all of the work, which-luckily-he did.
“When you traipse them out onto the power play for seven times, you’re playing with fire,” said Tippett about the many power-play chances given away to the Blackhawks.
The Coyotes offense was, once again, barely existent. The final shot on goal count was the Blackhawks with 44 to the Coyotes with only 15. They not only didn’t have a whole lot of shots, but they didn’t shoot when they had opportunities. During the third period, there were several times when they had chances, but they just didn’t take them, and head coach Dave Tippett seems awfully frustrated about this aspect of their game.
The Coyotes, who look quite a bit different after the trade deadline, seem to mesh better and better each game that they play. The team now has four games under their belts, and during this time, they’ve continued to improve in their overall play. Granted, there are many aspects that need improvement, especially after last night’s game. Overall, though, they’ve been playing well with what they have.
“There’s no qualms about the effort or the try,” said Tippett. “But tonight … we could have played way smarter, and that’s frustrating.”
Smith faces 44 SOG’s
Mike Smith has had a less than fantastic season, but the way that he has been playing lately has kept them in games. I previously mentioned him being referred to as their “best player on the ice” in those vital moments, and this statement continues to be true. Stopping 42 out of 44 shots on goal from the Blackhawks power-forwards was a major factor in how they stayed in the game.
“Mike (Smith) hung around, allowed us to hang around the game,” said Tippett on Smith’s play. “Our execution was poor throughout the night and we took penalty after penalty and Mike allowed us to hang around, but ultimately when you take that many bad penalties it is going to catch up to you.”
Smith got physical at one point in last nights game after Kris Versteeg was pushed into Smith by Mark Arcobello. Smith laid down a few punches and got himself a roughing minor that was served by Sam Gagner. Smith said that he didn’t know at the time that Versteeg was pushed, and if he had known, he wouldn’t have taken the measures that he did.
“When you get buried in the top of the head, the wires cross a little bit and the emotions come out,” Smith said about the altercation with Versteeg.
Things to know
- Coyotes face off against the New Jersey Devils at home on Saturday, March 14th.
- Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson who was boarded by Joakim Nordtrom in the last minute of the game is day-to-day. OEL skated off of the ice with an upper-body injury but is not ruled out to play on Saturday.