The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN’s take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there’s the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn’t get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
KINGS/COYOTES, GAME 1: KINGS 4, COYOTES 2 (KINGS LEAD SERIES 1-0)
THN’s Take: The Coyotes have been labeled a defensive team for too long and the first game of the West final showed it. Phoenix has been propped up by Mike Smith in the post-season, but needs to tighten up against a much more potent Los Angeles team than the statistics indicate.
For a team some assume can shut you down and smother you, the Coyotes sure got burned by pinching a lot against the Kings. In an attempt to create offense and come back from two one-goal deficits in the first two periods, Phoenix’s defense moved up and counted on backchecking support from their forwards. While that tactic helped them to 14 shots in the flurry of a second period, it helped the Kings to 17 in the same stanza and 48 overall. It’s good to have the confidence in your goalie to get aggressive, but there comes a time when relying on him too much is a disadvantage.
The Coyotes ability to answer and push with a speedy forecheck was countered with Los Angeles’ variety of defensemen and the combination of size and all-world skill up front. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards are on a level the Yotes haven’t seen yet and the confidence Los Angeles’ grind line has is scary.
This series will be anything but a smothering, shutdown affair. It’ll be about forechecking, goaltending and whoever can get lucky on the power play at the right time. The Coyotes also have to be sure to shoot the puck on net as much as possible and not slip back into a problem that appeared briefly against Chicago. Near the end of the game a close opportunity never happened because of a pass.
1. Dustin Brown – His goal was a thing of beauty as he found a seam to break through down the middle of the ice and beat Smith with a wicked shot. He now leads the playoffs with three game-winners. His physical presence was also in full force as he sent a message early to Phoenix’s puck-moving rearguards.
2. Anze Kopitar – His quietly effective post-season continues. Kopitar lead all forwards with 20:15 of ice time. Against centers not named Boyd Gordon, Kopitar went 6-for-10, but Gordon clearly has his number at the dot. Kopitar’s big body and net-front presence will be a storyline to watch.
3. Antoine Vermette – He didn’t get a point and was minus-1, but Vermette was responsible for Phoenix’s first goal and was a thorn in Los Angeles’ side all night. He was 59 percent in the faceoff circle and recorded three shots. Again, more shots are needed from a guy like this.
The Black Hole: Rostislav Klesla has had a good playoff, but he was responsible for too many odd-man rushes. While you can’t really knock a guy for pinching if that’s the game plan, he flat-out got burned by Brown on his goal. Klesla’s 18:23 was the second-lowest ice time he’s posted in a game he didn’t leave. He’s been too good to assume this is going to continue.