The Coyotes got their third straight shutout win, this time 2-0 over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but it wasn’t the most complete performance for the team.
In the last three games, goalie Mike Smith has turned away 136 shots, which is inexcusable for a defense to allow their goalie to get battered like that, and head coach Dave Tippett knows it.
“We’re going to have to figure some things out like lineup changes,” Tippett said. “When you give up 18 shots on your penalty kill, you’re going to be under siege most of the night and that is where we were.”
It was great to see Phoenix get its first win over Columbus this year, but if it wasn’t for Smith’s heroics and the play of guys like centers Boyd Gordon and Gilbert Brule, this game could’ve had a much different outcome.
“He is a guy who is playing the game to win, and doing whatever it takes to win,” Tippett said of Gordon. “We can have a few more of those guys in our lineup.”
The Coyotes were outshot 54-22 for the game, with only three of those shots coming in the third period.
The Blue Jackets pelted Smith with 22 shots in the second period alone, which is ironically when the Coyotes scored their goals.
Smith, who is never one to puff himself up, knew he had to take the game on his shoulders again on Tuesday night.
“I knew I was going to have to be big again tonight, and obviously the team wasn’t at our best tonight,” Smith said. “We have games like that throughout the season where we’re not going to fire on all cylinders.”
When you have strong goaltending like what Smith gives you every night, everyone else needs to take a page from his book and step their game up, which didn’t happen on Tuesday.
There were also way too many penalties – seven to be exact – which infuriated Tippett as well.
“That’s just not good enough,” Tippett said.
Bottom line: the Coyotes got the victory to tie the Kings for first place in the Pacific Division.
The win also leapfrogged them over the Sharks – who won in Dallas earlier in the evening – into seventh in the Western Conference.
The Coyotes are done with the home portion of their schedule, and they now hit the road for the final two games – at St. Louis and at Minnesota.
The playoffs are within their grasp, but their overall play, especially on defense, has to improve if they want to make some noise in the postseason.