Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings @ Coyotes – Game Four

At the start of this Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and the Phoenix Coyotes, it wasn’t that hard to guess that Ilya Bryzgalov would be the most important player in the series. If the Coyotes were going to upset the Wings, he was going to be the reason.

Bryzgalov was indeed the most important player, but not for the reason anyone would have predicted.

Detroit finished the sweep with a 6-3 win Wednesday night, scoring five goals on the Phoenix netminder and adding an empty net goal. Bryzgalov allowed four goals in each of the previous three games. In short, he failed his team. In retrospect, the result shouldn’t be a surprise.

All four games were hard-fought, each closer than the series as a whole ended up. If goaltending had come through for the Coyotes, this is a different series.

I’m not trying to throw Bryzgalov under the bus, his team could have limited Detroit’s chances better and taken more advantage of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who was giving up rebounds and bobbling the puck more than he probably wanted to. It’s just that it was known going in that Bryzgalov would have to steal games – it was almost expected that he would – and he didn’t come close to that.

As for Game Four from the Detroit perspective… Damn, the grinders were out tonight. The first Patrick Eaves goal sums up this series to me. Darren Helm banged the puck loose, took it himself for the shot, and Eaves drove to the net to knock it in. It was about physicality and taking advantage of the chances you get.

Red Wings Finish Sweep of Coyotes with 6-3 Win

The Detroit Red Wings rode three third-period goals to a 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night, completing a four-game sweep in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Danny Cleary scored on a shot from the left corner with 6:19 remaining in regulation to break a 3-3 tie. Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov came off the near post and Cleary’s acute-angle shot deflected off of Bryzgalov’s arm and into the net.

Todd Bertuzzi put Detroit up by a pair 1:53 later when his wraparound attempt deflected off defenseman David Schlemko’s skate and slipped past Bryzgalov.

Patrick Eaves added an empty net goal to finish off the scoring, his second goal of the night.

Detroit had opened the game’s scoring just 3:47 into the first period. Tomas Holmstrom chipped the puck through the neutral zone for Pavel Datsyuk to gain the Phoenix zone. Datsyuk cut latterally through the slot and dropped a pass for a streaking Holmstrom to fling past Bryzgalov.

The Coyotes responded 1:59 later, when Taylor Pyatt’s attempted crossing pass from the left wing boards deflected off of Jonathan Ericsson‘s skate and slid past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

At 9:46 of the period, Shane Doan gave Phoenix its second lead of the series, winning a battle along the boards and stepping into the left faceoff circle to fire a shot that deflected off of Nicklas Lidstrom and squeaked past Howard.

Eaves scored his first of the night to tie things back up with 1:13 remaining in the opening frame. Darren Helm bowled over Michal Rozsival and Keith Yandle behind the Phoenix net and came away with the puck, coming out to the side of the goal and sending a cross-crease pass to Eaves for a tap-in.

Martin Hanzal put Phoenix back in front just 1:09 into the second. Radim Vrbata drifted across the front of the net with the puck on a Coyotes power play before passing off to Hanzal at the far side of the net. Hanzal buried it into the open goal as Howard dove to get back.

Detroit countered with their own power play goal as Niklas Kronwall buried a rebound chance from the slot after a scramble in front of the net at 4:49.

The Coyotes finished the night with one goal on two power play tries while the Red Wings went one-for-three with the extra attacker.

Howard stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced. Bryzgalov made 34 saves on 39 shots.

Detroit must now wait for the conclusion of the other first-round matchups to know who they will play in the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Red Wings played without Henrik Zetterberg (knee) and Johan Franzen (ankle). Zetterberg missed all four games of the series while Franzen was a late scratch, having taken the pre-game skate. Mike Modano replaced Franzen in the lineup… Jakub Kindl was a healthy scratch on defense.

Pregame Notes: Red Wings @ Coyotes – Game Four

Well, what more is there to say?

Red Wings vs. Coyotes in Game Four tonight. Much being made of the possibility that it’s the last game in Glendale, with the team returning to Winnipeg in the offseason. No reason for Detroit to worry about that though it could provide Phoenix some extra motivation.

As seen last night, a team facing elimination isn’t done yet. Vancouver got lit up in their attempt at a sweet in Chicago so Detroit had better be careful or the same could happen to them.

No lineup changes for Detroit. The Coyotes aren’t expected to change but that depends on who you ask.

Game time is 10:30 Eastern.

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