Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Goaltending rules the day out West
By Pierre LeBrun
CHICAGO -- The changing of the guard in the West is now complete.
The Phoenix Coyotes joined St. Louis, Nashville and Los Angeles in the second round of the playoffs; a fresh-faced group signaling not only a new era in the Western Conference but also a change in style of play.
All four teams, to varying degrees, play defense-first systems and win low-scoring games when they're having success.
"I really do think it has a lot to do with team play," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said after Monday's 4-0, series-clinching win. "You look at the way Nashville plays, St. Louis plays, I think that's how you have to win in today's hockey. Probably the best example is the Boston Bruins last year. They were a hard, committed team that just grinded through series and ended up being the Stanley Cup champion."
All four of these defense-first teams are backed by some serious goaltending in Mike Smith, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne and the Jaroslav Halak/Brian Elliott duo.
Much like the Sharks, Blues and Red Wings in these playoffs, the Blackhawks were stymied against the Coyotes, scoring only 12 goals in six games.
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