So close has the series between the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago
Blackhawks been that one little bounce of the puck, one fumble
along the boards or one faceoff win can be the difference between
celebrating a victory and swallowing a loss.
Five straight games have been decided in overtime and who would
dare say it won’t go to six when the teams meet again Monday night
with the Coyotes leading 3-2.
It’s so even and unpredictable that both teams have triumphed
twice on the road with Chicago’s 2-1 victory Saturday night in
Glendale, Ariz., sending the series back to the United Center.
”We’re going home, which is going to be good, and try to get a
lift from the fans and try to get a big win,” Chicago defenseman
Brent Seabrook said after Game 5.
”We got to push it to the seventh and try to come back here,
but at the same time we’re not looking too far past the next game,
we got to come out with a good start and play a full 60.”
The series is tight and it’s been testy. Each team has had a
player suspended – Chicago’s Andrew Shaw three games for running
into Phoenix goalie Mike Smith and knocking him down in Game 2. And
Coyotes forward Raffi Torres, who was slapped with 25 games for his
shoulder-to-head blast on Marian Hossa in Game 3, one that saw the
Blackhawks’ star carried off on a stretcher and likely finished him
for the remainder of the postseason, however long that might
After the Blackhawks’ flight was about six hours late getting
back to Chicago on Sunday night because of what team officials said
were unforeseen travel delays, coach Joel Quenneville said Shaw
would play Monday night, and he also ruled Hossa out.
Waiting around in Phoenix on Sunday, the Blackhawks were able to
watch some other playoff games.
”You’ve just got to roll with it. I think that over the course
of a year or a couple years, you’re going to run into these kinds
of things,” Quenneville said about the delay. ”These things can
happen. You just deal with it.”
The Blackhawks should be familiar with winning elimination
games. They captured three last year in the opening round while
rallying from a 3-0 deficit against Vancouver, only to lose to the
Canucks in a Game 7. In overtime.
Now their goal is to force another Game 7 against the Coyotes,
who are shooting for the franchise’s first playoff series win since
moving to Phoenix in 1996.
”For most part the only guy feeling it the most would probably
be me,” said Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who began his career with
the franchise in Winnipeg in 1995-96.
”Obviously, I’d like to get out of the first round of the
playoffs, I mean everyone does. We have a great chance and we got
to find a way. We worked hard and got ourselves a 3-1 lead. I’d
much rather be in the position we’re in.”
Chicago has now played seven straight overtime playoff games,
including the final two a year ago against the Canucks. It’s
high-octane, white-knuckle hockey with no room whatsoever for error
and no blinking.
And the Blackhawks have also shown the ability to rally
throughout the series. Four times they’ve scored a tying goal in
the third period, three times after pulling goalie Corey
”I think the situations have been more indicative of them
having to press because we’ve been up and they’ve been trying to
catch us in the third and they found ways to do that,” Doan
”We’d love to be in the same position again. That’s our goal.
That’s where we are. We got to find ways to bury the opportunities
we get when they are pressing. That being said, we know we have to
play better than we played last night. Last night’s game wasn’t
even close to the way we think we should play.”
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who’d promised before Game 5
that he would bring an extra energy and effort, scored the winner
from the right circle Saturday night with a high shot that beat
Smith. Toews won a faceoff seconds earlier and the puck eventually
came back to him, setting up a clear shot.
”This series is far from over and we’re not going to give them
anything easily. For myself, I just had a feeling that something
good was going to happen,” Toews said.
The Blackhawks have had their problems with the Coyotes’
stifling defense that has bottled up Chicago’s open-ice talent. And
Smith has been a major force, facing 202 shots in the first five
games and yielding 12 goals.
And the Coyotes are 4-0 in the United Center, including two wins
in the regular season.
”We’re going up there with the same mindset. We’re going to
have to play a tight game and find a way to win one,” Coyotes
coach Dave Tippett said.