I am finally coming down off the high of elation that I have just experienced and am still so excited.
The Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-0 tonight in Pittsburgh. This was the first time that I got to watch Phoenix while under the guidance of Dave Tippett and I have to say that this looks like a completely different team.
The high pressure forecheck, good positioning, and physicality are aspects that I have not seen from a Phoenix team. They executed the Tippett system to perfection tonight as they limited the time and space of the opposition and forced them to mistakes. The players played a physical game, especially Ed Jovanovski who really showed up as his old self constantly punishing the Penguins when they came into the defensive zone.
Ilya Bryzgalov got his first shutout of the season. He did not have to be brilliant but he made some very big and timely saves in the third period. There were points in the third period where the Penguins were putting the pressure on and Phoenix was having trouble but Bryzgalov was there to keep Phoenix ahead. Bryz finished the game with 24 saves as he is off to a good start.
The last goal by Radim Vrbata was an empty net goal but the first two were powerplay goals. Petr Prucha showed why he should be on the ice during a man advantage situation as he played an important role in both tallies. Shane Doan made a nice cross ice pass to Ed Jovanovski who was down in the faceoff circle to the left of Penguins goalie Brent Johnson. Prucha stood in front screening Johnson while big Jovanovski sniped the short side corner to give Phoenix a 1-0 lead.
Prucha once again was a factor as he scored the second Phoenix goal on the power play. The young Czech got tangled up with Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton and fell to the ice. Radim Vrbata moved in and took a shot on Brent Johnson leaving the rebound right where Prucha was. Using his skill Prucha flipped the puck into the net while on his back. The hard work continued to pay off for the Coyotes.
While goals are impressive what the Coyotes did for the rest of the game was even more impressive. They systematically shut down the Penguin offense by being in good position and outworking the Penguins along the boards. Their sticks were right in the passing lanes and the players were sacrificing their bodies to block the puck before it even got on goal.
It was an impressive showing by the Phoenix Coyotes and win that a team can really use to become better. I know it is only the second game of a very long season but a win like this, no matter where it is in the season, can provide a confidence boost to more wins. I am trying to keep myself relatively calm but I cannot help but wonder if this team is going to make some noise this season.