The Phoenix Coyotes pulled off a solid performance tonight, defeating the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 at Jobing.com arena. They were solid from beginning to end, making excellent first passes to leave their own zone, dumping the puck in deep when they needed to and making the conservative decision when it was appropriate.
To watch Phoenix play can sometimes be a thing of beauty, knowing that the team has spread out its scoring so that it is very hard to know who exactly to defend. They dealt with a Pittsburgh team that was more talented, bigger and stronger, by playing the smarter game and limiting the shots against.
A total of 24 shots for the Penguins is not such a bad result, and they limited the rebounds and the angles from which pucks could be thrown on net. It is great to see coach Dave Tippett’s system implemented in a way that seems to be able to use hard work and smart decisions with the puck to beat any team in the league.
Phoenix is once again knocking on the door for the playoffs this year, ready and able to take a spot from Vancouver or Los Angeles, who have not been playing very well of late.
Oliver Ekman Larsson was especially effective tonight at making a good first pass, shooting when he was given space, and limiting the chances. He had over 27 minutes on the ice tonight, three minutes more than Keith Yandle. Ekman-Larsson is eighth in the league in TOI at about 25:30 per game.
It is amazing to me that a player who is out there that long could have a good offensive game where he was creating chances. He had the best all-around game of any player on the ice tonight.
Mike Ribeiro was also very solid for the Coyotes. He is leading the team with 39 points and was dangerous with the puck tonight. An elite passer, Ribeiro is able to see the ice so well.
These two players (Ekman-Larsson and Ribiero) will be a huge part of whether or not the Coyotes can make the playoffs this year. Players who help to make good, fundamental decisions will determine if the calm Coyotes can get back in the thick of things.