The Phoenix Coyotes scratched and clawed their way through the 2010-2011 regular season ending with a 43-26-13 record which was good enough for 6th in the Western Conference which granted them a chance at redemption in the way of another first round match-up with the Detroit Red Wings. These two teams met in the playoffs last year with the Red Wings winning the series in 7 games despite Phoenix having home ice advantage.
The Coyotes are going to heavily rely on their all world goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov if they have any hope of knocking off the Wings this time around. Ilya finished the year with a record of 36-20-10 with a solid 2.48 GAA and excellent .921 save percentage and is the backbone of a Coyotes team who while are not the most skilled squad do make you pay for mistakes and can capitalize off of turnovers in a hurry.
Captain Shane Doan led the Coyotes in points this year with 60, and was the teams only 20 goal scorer ending with exactly 20. Keith Yandle leads a very solid core on the blue line for the desert dogs putting up a very solid 11 goals and 48 assists to finish second in team scoring and outside of Bryzgalov was the Coyotes best player.
The Detroit Red Wings are the same old Red Wings. Nicklas Lidstrom leads this group and at the age of 40 put up a staggering 62 points playing against the oppositions top line every night. Up front the Wings have a big concern with their leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg out with an ankle injury. While Henrik is listed as day to day there is no time table for his return and should not be ready for game 1 which will hurt the Red Wings.
What Detroit does have is a ton of depth both up front and on the back end. Players like Datsyuk, Rafalski, Lidstrom, Holmstrom, and Draper all have multiple Stanley Cup rings and a wealth of experience to draw upon. In fact the Red Wings have a combined 29 championships under their belts. The Coyotes have two. It also shows up on the score sheet where this season twelve Red Wings had 30 or more points.
Detroit is certainly not without question marks though and they start between the pipes. Jimmy Howard had a decent year with a 2.79 GAA and .908 save percentage but is clearly the lesser of the two goaltenders in this match-up. Age is also a factor that could play against Detroit as one year it will happen when the older legs of the Red Wings will no longer be able to keep up. The Coyotes are hoping that this is the year.
So does Phoenix truly have a chance to beat the Red Wings? Absolutely! But Ilya Bryzgalov will have to steal this series for the Coyotes and clearly outplay Jimmy Howard. If the goaltending ends up being equal I don’t like the Coyotes chances. Dave Tippett who should win coach of the year again in my opinion will have to come up with a great game plan to keep the Coyotes from getting overwhelmed by the Wings puck possession game.
My prediction.. Red Wings in 6 games unless Ilya Bryzgalov can outright steal this series for Phoenix.
Have a good one!
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About the Author
Written by Shane Hoopfer
Die hard Flames fan since 1980, and a closet baseball junkie. Also a big Dolphins, and Stampeders fan!