It’s the second week in a row that the Blackhawks and Coyotes get to face off against each other, but when they face off tonight in Chicago (8 p.m. ET on Versus), it’ll be the Blackhawks seeking redemption.
Last week we saw Coyotes goalie Mike Smith stand tall while Corey Crawford was chased out of the net in a 4-1 loss. Crawford’s had his ups and downs this season coming off a year that saw him rise to the top and become one of the better goalies in the league. It hasn’t been nearly as easy this season as his numbers are down. Yet through all this, Chicago still sits atop the Central Division and Western Conference with the Minnesota Wild. Go figure.
Meanwhile, Mike Smith has looked like a revelation in Dave Tippett’s system in Phoenix. While we were all highly skeptical of the way the Coyotes fixed their goaltending situation after seeing Ilya Bryzgalov go to Philly, Smith has seized the day and looked just as good as Bryzgalov always used to. Give credit to Smith for playing strong, but also to Tippett for having the brand of hockey that can allow a goalie to settle in and just do their job.
While the Blackhawks bring all the big name offense to this game with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp, the Coyotes have a foursome of their own doing some great work. Led by Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata, the Coyotes also have captain Shane Doan and Keith Yandle pumping in the points themselves. The Coyotes might not strike you as a team that can be dangerous with scoring, yet here they are in the middle of things in the Pacific Division.
Chicago has bounced back nicely from their loss to Phoenix last week winning two in a row, but knocking off the Coyotes at home after getting thumped would help give them that swagger back. Phoenix would be happy to just frustrate them all over again.