Coyotes @ Sharks:
Tonight I’m getting what lately has seemed like a rare chance to watch the late game on Saturday night. Why Sharks/Coyotes? Sure, the other late game (Wild/Flames) has more playoff ramifications, but this matchup has our favorite departed Ranger.
Easy call for me.
To start the game, I'll relate - again - the kind (and true) words shared between Dave Strader and Darren Pang:
Strader: "The evaluation and experimentation continues for Wayne Gretzky. He's found a couple of tandems including Martin Hanzal and Petr Prucha that are working well together."
Pang: "He's really got to like the chemistry that is going on right now. (Team is 3-1-1 in their last five games). Last game he had to go to the tandem again, Martin Hanzal and Petr Prucha (both of Czech Republic). Petr Prucha is the ideal player. The kind of guy that Wayne Gretzky raves about. Low maintenance. A guy that will take a hit to make a play. He loves the game of hockey and obviously he's the guy that will do it on both ends of the ice. They've been a really nice tandem for the last couple of games."
"Ideal hockey player."
"Wayne Gretzky raves about."
"Loves the game of hockey."
"On both ends of the ice."
If you are going to impress anyone in this league, why not let it be the greatest goal scorer in its history, no?
And isn't it still more refreshing for these announcers to be sure to mention - repeatedly I admit - these confidence boosting statements. They obviously believe strongly in what they are saying if they keep taking the time to mention it. What’s more, in game, they keep saying things like "smart play" and "tenacious backcheck" when referring to Prucha.
As for the game, the first period was a wide-open style that we rarely get the pleasure of seeing in the East, at least not in New York. Teams got only 8 shots a piece and no goals were scored, but it was a quick - literally quick - period to see.
In the second, things got more intense. San Jose came out much stronger, and got a lot more pressure on Ilya Bryzgalov - 15 shots. Both teams scored two goals - three from unlikely sources (Kurt Sauer - 1st of season for Yotes; Jody Shelley -2nd on season and Tom Cavanaugh - 1st career, for the Sharks) to make it a 2-2 game at the end of the 2nd frame.
Credit the Coyotes for not backing off to the increased physicality and pressure from the Sharks. People might not think they have anything to play for right now. But they get to play spoiler to teams in the West for one. And more importantly for their own benefit, they are playing to show the coach what they can do. Trying to create tandems, as mentioned above, so that when it comes time for free agency and training camp next fall, they are remembered and wanted as important parts of this team. Lastly, of course, is pride. This was a team that, until the All-Star break was sitting in the middle of the playoff pack. It might not have worked out the way they wanted to but I still believe – as I did to start the season – that they can and will be a team to contend with in the West.
The third period further confirmed that I chose a good game to watch. Even though the Sharks ended up winning on a powerplay goal by Pavelski, it was a fun, pretty even battle throughout.
And the highlight was a "great, great" shift by Prucha, Winnik, and Hanzal where they kept the best line on San Jose "hemmed in" their own zone for 1:25. It was just a sick shift, total domination by the Coyotes. (In some way, reminiscent of the way the Rangers in December were able to control San Jose in the late stages of the game, with constant pressure).
Anyway, decision well made.
Interesting Stat. . .
Somewhere in the game, Dave Strader pointed out some interesting league facts. The following players are the only players in the league with 30+ goals, 70+ points, and a + rating. They are:
And all those + players, they are all +11 or more. I found that kind of interesting.
**Author's Note: Two former Rangers - Nigel Dawes and Al Montoya - were interviewed during the game. Apparently Montoya has been promised to see some action in the seasons final games. And apparently Bryzgalov didn't believe he was Cuban.**