Heading into Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals (scheduled for tonight, 6:00 PM PDT, Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, Arizona), the Phoenix Coyotes know that their biggest challenge will be finding a way to contain the Los Angeles Kings’ top lines, most notably, their first line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Justin Williams, who totally dominated whenever they were on the ice, and picked apart the Coyotes.
“Obviously, their top two lines are really skilled, real strong on the puck,” said Coyotes center Martin Hanzal. “We’ve got to make sure we can be hard on these guys, physical, and take the time and the space away from them. That’s going to be the key.”
“I think you’ve got to raise your level every single round,” added Hanzal. “They did, and we didn’t. So, if we don’t raise our level, we’re going to go home. It’s pretty simple.”
But if you ask Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, it was not just the Kings’ top lines that picked them apart in Game 1.
“I didn’t see it as just the Kopitar line,” he said, following the game. “I thought their whole team was better than our team. If you like Kopitar’s game, he was [just one] of them. We weren’t close in that game. We got beat in every facet of the game. Hopefully, we take some lessons from it and we can be better next game.”
“I felt like our execution was so poor, I bet you there was between 25 and thirty shots that they got in the game, or attempted in the game, that we had the puck on our stick, it ended up on their stick, and [they got] a shot on the net,” he added. “The execution, and the will to get things done, is going to have to improve greatly if we’re going to have a chance in this series.”
24 hours later, Tippett was singing the same tune.
“[We need to make] adjustments all over the board,” Tippett emphasized. “First and foremost, if you’re not willing to jump in and win a few more one-on-one battles, tactical stuff.”
“We’ve gone up against some pretty good teams, pretty good [centers] here,” Tippett added. “We know what we’re up against. Like I said last night, I’m more concerned about making sure our guys play to their capabilities, we get everybody playing the way we think they should be playing, judge what the other team is doing. If we can get up to speed, [we’ll] see where we can get to.”
“That’s the sense of our guys today. We recognized that LA played a strong game last night, but I think we can be much better than we were. Center ice is obviously very important in that. Our whole group can be a lot better.”
Coyotes captain Shane Doan echoed Tippett’s comments.
“It’s one game,” said Doan. “We’re obviously disappointed in the results, and the way we played. We’ve just got to be better. That’s really what all the talk is about. We know we can be better and we have to get better.”
“Last night’s loss, I think it was disappointing in the fact we didn’t play our best game,” added Doan. “You’re in the conference final, and you didn’t play your best game. Nothing you can do about it now. That’s kind of our attitude. You’ve just got to be better.”
“Every guy can be a lot better than we were last night, and give them credit. They played well, they played really well. I mean, they dominated.”
The Coyotes biggest bright spot in Game 1 was goaltender Mike Smith, who was outstanding, stopping 44 shots.
“We were not close to the level we needed to be at,” Smith noted. “It showed in the score, in the result in the game. We need to be a lot better.”
“I think we were the ones feeling them out, and they came at us with everything they had,” Smith added. “We need to be more aggressive, play more to our capabilities, [and] not let them come at us so hard.”
Despite all the inward thinking, Doan admitted that it was not just about what his team was or was not doing in Game 1.
“We just have to find ways to be better as a group,” Doan stressed. “We can be better. In saying that, you don’t want to take any credit away from them. They played really well.”
“They played their game plan exactly the way they wanted,” Doan added. “Some of us not playing well was due to them playing really well. We know we can be better and we will be better.”
With the Coyotes’ focus being on themselves, and raising their own level of play, the Kings will need to be prepared for an even greater challenge in Game 2.
“We had a lot of opportunities in the first period last night,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “I know that Dave and his staff are saying that they didn’t, probably didn’t, play very well. We sure as hell better be ready again for that tomorrow.”
“It’s not about anything last night,” added Sutter. “Just knowing full well what they’re—I know the leadership group, I know what they’re expecting out of themselves for tomorrow.”
“I expect them to come out with a little snarl early on,” said Williams. “We had the better of the play in the first period. We expect them to come out with some spunk, and some jam. We’ll have to match it.”
2012 Western Conference Final, Los Angeles Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes, Game 1 Highlights, May 13, 2012
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