The Phoenix Coyotes may have won two games in their recent three-game set against the Anaheim Ducks, but in the big picture they failed to gain ground in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes two wins came in shootouts, thus allowing the Ducks to still take a point from each game. The Ducks got a 2-0 win in the rubber match, leaving each team with four points from the three-game series and the Coyotes no better off than they were beforehand. Since playing the Ducks, the Coyotes dropped their next game to the St. Louis Blues by a 6-3 score, as goaltender Mike Smith gave up four or more goals for the fifth time in six games. The Coyotes haven’t had a regulation win since Feb. 26 and need to right the ship soon and hope the series against Anaheim wasn’t a turning point in their season.
After Smith gave up four goals in the first two games against the Ducks, the Coyotes turned to Jason LaBarbera for Wednesday’s game. He surrendered just one goal on 21 shots and could challenge Smith for more starts moving forward. Smith’s current streak is troubling considering he started off February with six wins in nine games and points in eight of 10 games. Despite their recent run, the Coyotes sit just outside of the playoff picture at the moment but face a tough schedule in the next two weeks – eight of their next 11 games will pit them against teams that they currently trail in the standings. Much like Martin Brodeur with the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Bryzgalov with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Coyotes often go the way their top goaltender goes. If the team hopes to reach the playoffs again this season, they need Smith to get back in form soon.