Commentary

Coyotes need to change script

Updated: April 28, 2012, 9:41 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Don Maloney chuckled Saturday as he measured up his team's last two playoff victories.

"We're taking the Coyotes ugly thing to a new level," the Coyotes GM laughed.

Massively outshot both Monday night in a series-clinching win over the Blackhawks and Friday night in their second-round opener with the Nashville Predators, the Coyotes have had enough of that script.

"Sooner or later it's going to cost us," Coyotes veteran forward Daymond Langkow said Saturday. "We've got to be more aggressive and not sit back."

In an odd twist Saturday, the winning team from Game 1 seemed more preoccupied with adjustments than the losing team.

"We were definitely happy with the win, but we were not happy with the way we played," veteran Coyotes blueliner Derek Morris said after practice Saturday. "We can't keep riding the roller coaster down this road. We have to get it back on track. And get back to playing the way we can."

Coach Dave Tippett made that clear in his message to his players. They've got to raise their game and stop relying so much on netminder Mike Smith if they're going to have any chance in this series.

"Obviously when you don't play your best game, you're going to hear from it," said Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle. "Tipp's a guy that holds you accountable whether you win or lose. We did video today, got our game plan together, and we're ready for Sunday."

The Coyotes tried to nurse a 3-2 lead entering the third period Friday night but sat back way too much, getting outshot a whopping 16-1 and giving up their lead.

"In the third period, we were the farthest thing from efficient," Tippett said Saturday. "We were chasing, and when you do that, you just defend too much.

"We relied on [Smith] too much in the third period."

Smith, just like he has over the past few months, did his thing. He was sensational in the third period and overtime.

"In the third, I didn't really realize we were getting outplayed that bad," Smith said Saturday. "I was just staying in the moment and worrying about the next shot. After the game, I think it was my wife told me we only had one shot in the third."

So, how do the Coyotes raise their game?

"To take the heat off Smithy a little bit we need to spend more time in the offensive zone, we need to hold pucks down there, we need to be strong at the blue line and keep pucks in," said Yandle. "We have to collectively be better at it."

On the flip side, the Predators hope this isn't a trend that's continuing from the first round, after watching the Coyotes frustrate the Blackhawks so much. Ironically, Nashville used Pekka Rinne's heroics in a couple of games against the Red Wings, so now the Predators know the feeling from both sides.

"They're opportunistic, they've got a great goaltender, they play a lot like us," Predators center Mike Fisher said of the Coyotes. "We got some of those [type of] wins against Detroit, too. We've seen it, we know what to expect."

Having outshot the Coyotes 25-7 in the third period and overtime, the Predators feel they really just have to stick with it.

"We did some great things, we got some chances and just didn't bury," said Fisher. "Defensively we had a few lapses, and that was the game. We'll be much better Game 2. We feel good about ourselves."

One area of concern for the Predators is in the faceoff circle, where Nashville got clobbered 46-32 in Game 1. And it cost the Predators on the overtime goal when Phoenix won a clean faceoff, Martin Hanzal beating Fisher in the dot and Ray Whitney getting loose for the winner.

"Absolutely," Fisher said Saturday when asked if that was an area of focus. "We're trying to find ways. All of their centermen are really good and they do a good job. We have to find ways to battle, get some more wins and be better in that area."

Fisher and other Predators centers worked on it in practice Saturday.

"I've got some secrets up my sleeve, can't tell you," Fisher joked. "I wish. No, just trying to get better, learn some of their tendencies, seeing video and trying to find little ways."

The bottom line for the Predators is that they can't lose a game to Phoenix in which they beat Mike Smith for three goals.

"We should make sure we win the game if we get three," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "Reflecting on it, we had a lot of chances, didn't capitalize on them. They did a good job, they found ways to keep it out of the net and found ways to put it in our net. We just have to tighten up in a couple of areas. We'll make some slight adjustments and go at it tomorrow."

Part of that adjustment is telling his players not to press when things aren't going their way.

"We just have to be comfortable that if it's going to be a 1-0 game, or a 2-0 game or 2-1 game, we have to be comfortable in that and not be impatient," said Trotz. "If it's not there, don't force it."