The Detroit Red Wings have lost both games with Jimmy Howard on the shelf so far, but it’s tough to beat up on Joey MacDonald on Monday. The borderline NHL goalie only allowed two goals as the Phoenix Coyotes edged the Red Wings 3-1.
(The Yotes sealed the deal with an empty-netter, in case you were wondering about my math.)
Phoenix seemingly caught Detroit sleeping in the first period as Boyd Gordon’s captivating shorthanded goal made it 1-0. Martin Hanzal scored a power-play goal to make it 2-0, so by the time the Red Wings started to control play, it might have been too late.
At least it was too late because of Mike Smith, who stopped 30 out of 31 shots. He was particularly strong in the last 40 minutes of the game as the Red Wings fired 25 shots on him but could only find the net once on a man advantage.
Big games ahead for Phoenix
It’s easy to focus on some of the Red Wings’ problems, but with an NHL leading 72 points, Detroit clearly had less at stake. The Coyotes are now tied with the Dallas Stars for ninth place with 56 points although their divisional rivals hold the wins advantage (27 to Phoenix’s 24) and have played two fewer games. The Coyotes could hop over them if they can top the Stars in Dallas, though, but it won’t be easy because that game takes place tomorrow.
That’s just the beginning of some challenging and important games for the bubble team, though. The Calgary Flames aren’t far behind them with 54 points in 52 games, so that Thursday matchup is almost as important as the Stars game.
Things get awfully challenging after that as they face the Vancouver Canucks and then have another game against Dallas (Feb. 18) sandwiched between two games against the Los Angeles Kings.
Life won’t get much easier with a handful of games against Western Canadian teams, but the bottom line is that the Coyotes are still in the mix and their frugal No. 1 goalie seems to be getting his act together.
(Not enough to make the Red Wings jealous yet, though.)
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