Commentary

Coyotes need team effort or else

Updated: May 14, 2012, 5:53 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Of the four still standing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, no team better exemplifies being greater than the sum of its parts than the Phoenix Coyotes.

More than the Kings, Rangers and Devils, the Coyotes need every single player in the lineup to contribute every single game to have any chance at winning. They can't rely on a nucleus of stars like the other three teams to lift them on nights not everyone is going.

And so when the sum of all parts isn't adding up, it's not pretty, as was the case in Sunday's Game 1 loss, as the Coyotes were outshot 48-27 and largely outplayed by the Kings in a 4-2 defeat.

"It really shows when we don't have every guy in the locker room bringing their best game," third-line winger Taylor Pyatt said Monday after practice. "We saw that last night. That's what makes it so fun when you're winning on a team like this, everyone feels like they're contributing and part of it. That's why we've had the success that we've had."

The thing about being that kind of lunch-bucket crew, is that it takes an incredible amount of effort from a larger number of individuals. But that's OK, says the team captain. "It's what makes playing on this team fun, it really does," second-line winger Shane Doan said. "We know that as a group, we don't have that one superstar, but as a group we're solid. It's our strength when things go well, and it's our weakness when things go bad. That's fine. I'd rather it be that way. I enjoy playing on this team, I love it. I like the group of guys. I really think that we'll respond. To a man I think we'll be better."

The Coyotes are behind in a playoff series for the first time this spring, but you wouldn't know it from the mood and atmosphere Monday. A spirited practice was followed in the dressing room by players who at the very least sounded as confident as they've been all playoff long.

But they also know full well how lacking that effort was Sunday. The Kings controlled the puck all night long.

"Obviously, we didn't play the game we want to play and the game we can play," said top-line center Martin Hanzal. "It's very simple: We got out-competed last night. They had 48 shots. It's unacceptable. We have to raise our level a bit higher."

Hanzal's line with Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata is key to the turnaround for Game 2. His unit did a solid job in the opening two rounds at both ends of the ice, on most nights matching wits with the top guns on the Blackhawks and Predators. Sunday night, Hanzal's unit was overwhelmed by the Kings' trio of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams.

"They are really skilled and really strong on the puck," said Hanzal. "We got to make sure we can be hard on these guys, be physical, take time and space away from them. That's going to be the key tomorrow."

It's not as if the Coyotes didn't know what to expect. They're Pacific Division rivals, they've played the Kings six times this season. But these Kings aren't quite the same team from those six earlier games in the regular season. They've got their mojo going like never before, going 9-1 in the playoffs and destroying everything in their path.

"They've just really come together at the right time," Pyatt said of the Kings, a perfect 6-0 on the road in the playoffs. "I've watched them throughout the playoffs here. They're a big, strong, physical team. We went over some video, they came out and played pretty much exactly as we expected them to. We just didn't respond. We'll make some adjustments and be better for Game 2."

Part of that adjustment Tuesday night will be to get the puck out of their zone with more consistency and fluidity. The Coyotes were hemmed in for way too long on many shifts in Game 1.

"Especially in the D-zone, I thought we could have made better plays to get it out of our end," agreed star blueliner Keith Yandle. "Obviously, when you're in your own end, you're playing more time there and giving them more opportunities. Us as a D-corps, we can do a better job of making a good first pass and getting out of our end and playing down there more."

Note: Veteran blueliner Adrian Aucoin, who missed Game 1 with a lower-body injury, took part in practice Monday and is a possibility for Game 2.

"First full practice today with the group [in a while], it's a good sign, whether he's available tomorrow [Tuesday] or not we'll revisit that tomorrow morning," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said.