Finally, after 12 games of the 2012-13 season have been played, the Phoenix Coyotes have gotten a win on the road. Getting a win on the road is a sweet feeling for the Coyotes, getting it on the home ice of the top team in the Pacific Division, makes it a spectacular feeling. It is the type of feeling a team can build on and try to take advantage of, especially when they look at the standings and see that they are just four points off of the lead within their division.
The San Jose Sharks sit atop the Pacific, but four points is not much of a cushion between them and the fourth place coyotes. With the Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars in between the two of them, the Pacific could be one of the most highly contested divisions in the NHL this season.
Both the Sharks and Coyotes were coming off of a loss. In an odd set of circumstances, both were coming off of a loss to the same team, the Chicago Blackhawks. With Phoenix having to go into the Shark Tank, the odds they would snap their losing streak were slight, to say the least, but goaltender Mike Smith rose to the challenge and stopped everything the Sharks could throw at him.
The sharks dominated the number of shots on goal, firing off 30 attempts compared to the Coyotes’ 19. It did not matter for either team though as Smith stonewalled the Sharks, while Antii Niemi followed suit. The game would go into a shootout where Niemi was unable to maintain his perfect game.
The shot disparity and the lack of success are concerning for Phoenix and it is an area they will focus on in the next practice, but having Smith rise to the occasion and out play one of the best goaltenders in the league was crucial, especially after the way they had been dominated by the Blackhawks just a few nights before.
“I haven’t played my best hockey as of this year so far,” Smith said after the game. “This was a great test for me, just to kind of not worry about anything else, just kind of come in this building and know they play well in here and they’re a highly-skilled team. Seems like they just get better and better the longer the game goes on. I just prepared myself for that and tried to make saves at important times.”
After the loss to Chicago, things had suddenly began to look very bleak for the Coyotes, but a tough win on the road, against the division leader, may be just what Phoenix needed to get back into the thick of playoff hunt.