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Coyotes get ugly in Nashville

Tonight, rather than crunching numbers, I took in the
Coyotes/Predators game in Nashville. The Preds apparently thought
their exhibition season lasted a week longer than everyone else's, as
they started off 0-3 with horrible goaltending, defense, and special
teams, while the Coyotes have looked awful in recent losses to Detroit and Columbus. Assorted notes below were compiled during the game on my Crackberry...

Start 1st: Decent crowd for the opening faceoff, with the upper and
lower bowls nearly filled, but the club level maybe 1/3rd-filled at
best.

13:11 1st: Incredible patience shown by Jason Arnott on a goal by
Paul Kariya. Scott Walker hit him with a pass as he came down the
slot, but Curtis Joseph had the angle covered and Arnott hits Kariya waiting for an easy back-door tap-in. That's the kind of goal that can get an offense clicking, with smart play getting everyone involved.

7:07 1st: Phoenix looks terrible as Martin Erat gets the puck down in
the corner and has all the time and space he needs to skate out, lose
the puck in his feet, recover it, and put it past a helpless CuJo. To
this point Phoenix has had very little pressure in the Nashville end.

5:45 1st: A good fight at center ice between the Coyotes Josh Gratton and Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk, with Gratton landing the best shots towards the end. And here I thought there wasn't any more fighting in the new NHL...

2:13 1st: A sloppy power play by Phoenix works out after all, as
Fredrik Sjostrom walks in from the boards and puts a wrister far-side
past Tomas Vokoun from near the left faceoff dot.

13:28 2nd: After some good pressure by the Predators, the refs make a pity call on Shea Weber, giving Phoenix a power play which they promptly squander.

10:43 2nd: After killing off Weber's penalty, the Predators get a PP
of their own, and finally cash in off a classic point shot with
traffic in front of Joseph, with Scott Hartnell getting the tip-in. This is turning into a loooong road trip for Gretzky's Coyotes.

7:32 2nd: Ryan Suter scores his first of the season, and the crowd is
starting to have some fun now. CuJo continues to scramble behind a
team that's getting outshot 18-9.

Last minute, 2nd: The Preds are buzzing, but there's also a sign of
why they've given up so many goals early on. During basic 5-on-5
pressure, defenseman Kimmo Timonen swoops down near the crease looking for a goal, but leaving his point unattended. In a 4-1 game, I can't imagine Barry Trotz being thrilled with that...

Intermission: A perfectly timed brat run on my part, as I get back to
my seat just as they are lining up to face off (no kraut, thanks, just
onions and ketchup).

Early 3rd: The crowd is chanting for tacos, which they get if
Nashville scores 5 in a game. Apparently the Predators D wants to
oblige, as Marek Zidlicky takes reckless chances in the Phoenix zone.
Trotz has got to rein those guys in before they play a team that
actually competes.

Mid 3rd: The Coyotes show some professional pride by sparking a few dust-ups including Derek Morris pounding Vernon Fiddler while everyone else was paired up. Sometimes you have to take the victories where you can get them...

Late 3rd: The Coyotes start to get a few shots, but mostly due to
Nashville players getting greedy and looking for another goal, in
particular J.P. Dumont, who looked for a few cherry-picking passes.

End 3rd: Final score 4-1, and I'm betting the Phoenix bus was ready
to roll as soon as the horn blew.

1st Star: Jason Arnott, who kept Nashville on the attack just about
whenever he was out there.
2nd Star: Paul Kariya - plenty of sniping available tonight.
3rd Star: Tomas Vokoun, for not breaking a sweat.

Odds and Ends:

  • Paul Kariya just doesn't seem to create anything on his own. He can get an accurate wrist shot off quickly given a good pass, but all too often he seems to wait for the action to come to him.
  • Martin Erat might be the Preds most dangerous offensive player, with a good combination of speed and soft hands.
  • Gretzky should ask if Jovanovski might be allowed to play with two sticks so he won't be tempted to play his other plodding blueliners.
  • Up front, Mike Comrie showed some blazing speed along with two-way hustle.
  • The fans in Nashville are definitely legit NHL fans - they know their players well, and have loads of energy (especially in section 303). Give them a taste of playoff success, and they could own this town, especially considering how the NFL's Titans are doing.

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