The Blackhawks are a better team than the Coyotes but bad goals and mental mistakes have a way of evening things up. On Friday night versus Nashville, the Hawks got away with a less than focused performance but Phoenix still has playoff aspirations. They stayed alert throughout and in the end snatched an important two points.
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith played the way he did when defeating the Blackhawks during last season’s playoffs. Smith was very good and also had Lady Luck on his side. The Hawks had Smith down and out a few times but couldn’t hit the net or shoot the puck directly at him.
The Coyotes deserved the victory and most important the Blackhawks didn’t appear to suffer any injuries. If Phoenix does sneak into the playoffs they would likely face Chicago in the first round. The Hawks would have revenge on their minds and as long as they’re relatively healthy, they should be able to turn the tide on the Coyotes this season.
Injuries are always a big factor in playoff success but as important or more so is having a top performance from a goaltender. Maybe Corey Crawford has let his guard down a little the last couple of games but he could play better. Crawford did rally as the game went on Saturday night but his two outings this weekend were far from his best. Crawford can shine in shootouts when on top of his game but he was committing too soon versus the Coyotes.
This week Joel Quenneville could be caught between trying to give Crawford some time off and wanting to get him sharp. It appeared Saturday’s game would be a chance to give Rockford IceHogs call-up Carter Hutton a start in goal. It doesn’t seem as likely Hutton would start on the road versus the Canucks on Monday, but he might now.
Quenneville could have the luxury of falling back on Ray Emery if Crawford stumbles. At the moment Emery is suffering from some sort of a lower body injury and it is not known when he will be ready to return. There is no need to panic because Crawford hasn’t stayed in a slump for long this season.
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