Seriously, who is this Lee Stempniak because it cannot be the same guy who played on the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this season and scored 14 goals in 62 games. Stempniak scored two goals in the second straight games for the Phoenix Coyotes to lead them to their 4-0 win of Carolina.
The eventual game winning first goal was a quick tap in past goalie Justin Peters after Vernon Fiddler passed it from behind the net right on the Stempniak’s stick. His second goal was a shot from the slot which got passed a screened Peters courtesy of Taylor Pyatt on the power play to give the Yotes the 2-0 lead.
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov also played a major part in the victory stopping all 29 of Carolina’s shots for his NHL-leading eighth shutout of the season, also tying future Arizona State Prisoner Nikolai Khabibulin(too soon?) for most shutouts in Phoenix Coyote’s history. Bryzgalov looked flawless Saturday night being challenged constantly throughout the night and making every stop look easy.
Bryz’s biggest save came early in the third period when he gloved down a Rob Brind’Amour shot during a 5-on-3 advantage for the Canes.
Martin Hanzal scored the other two Coyotes goals for his 9th and 10th goals of the season, becoming the 10th player on the Coyotes this season to crack the double digit barrier in goals.
That stat should be what frightens most teams about the Coyotes, ten players have scored over ten goals this season with two other players on the doorstep with nine goals. Only one other team has more players with 10+ goals this season and that is the Washington Capitals, who have 11.
The depth of the team was proven last night when coach(of the year) Dave Tippett decided to rearrange all the lines except the Fiddler-Pyatt-Stempniak line. And with the rearranging of the lines the Coyotes didn’t look like they missed a beat, clicking with their new line mates and showing dominance throughout the first half of the game.
A notable change in lines was the splitting up of the Czech line of Petr Prucha, Radim Vrbata, and Hanzal, who have been far and away the most consistent line for the team all season. The line was back together for a shift or two midway through the third period, but the reunion was short lived as they were split up again for the remainder of the game.
This win for the Coyotes puts them in a strong position to not only make the playoffs, but it gives them an opportunity to do something no other Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets team has ever been able to do, accumulate over 100 points in a season. Currently the team has 87 points in 68 games meaning there is still a possibility for 28 more points and the way that the Coyotes have been playing since the Olympic break (4-1-0) it is looking very promising to see this team boast a triple digit point total at the end of the season.
Phoenix will continue their “Hunt for a Hundred” Sunday when they play the Atlanta Thrashers, who are on an abysmal five game losing streak. The Coyotes will play 10 of their next 14 games on the road, with eight of those games against current playoff teams.
Only two more wins to achieve the 91 points it took to make the playoffs last year, GO YOTES GO!!!
About the Author
Written by Matt Shott
22 year old hockey fan born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Weird, huh? Entire family minus myself and my brother were born in Toronto, ON so thats how I became a fan of this great sport. I have worked at Ice rinks since I was 14 and spend all day reading hockey stories. I eat, sleep, coach, play, and basically LIVE hockey. I became a Red Wing fan thanks to EA Sports NHL '95 and haven't looked back since (Why would I?). Parents were Season Ticket holders for the Phoenix Coyotes since day 1 and when they moved to Portland 3 years ago, I picked up where they left off and have found a soft spot for them. I moved to Toronto in January '10 to attend Centennial College's Sports Journalism program, so I am becoming a Maple Leafs fan in the process. Its hard to do after 16 years of being a Red Wings fan. So to recap: Wings fan at heart, Leafs fan on the outside, and always carry a soft spot for the Coyotes.