Coyotes built to play overtime
Coyotes forward Ray Whitney (right) scores on Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford during Game 3 of their playoff series in Chicago on April 17, 2012. (Jim Young/Reuters)
If the Blackhawks were looking for their cure to playing in overtime games, they'll likely have to find themselves a new opponent.
The Phoenix Coyotes, their foe in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal, were built for extra time.
Prior to Thursday's Game 4 here at the United Center, every game in the series had gone to overtime, with the Coyotes getting the upper hand in two of them.
The extra time has occurred in part because of the tight nature of the conference in general, but also because of the rigid type of defensive play the Coyotes are schooled in under coach Dave Tippett.
"That's playoff hockey, unless you are in the Pittsburgh-Philly series," Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle said with a laugh when asked about the slim separation between the two teams. "We play a lot like that in the regular season -- tight, close-checking games. That's the way we like to play. It's the way Tip coaches us."
While not necessarily a tight trapping team, the Coyotes certainly place an emphasis on clogging up room for the top offensive players on the opposition. And rather than force the play, they tend to sit back, waiting for an opportunity.
"(Overtime) is the fun part of the game right now," Tippett said. "You get to the pinnacle of your game, it's overtime in the playoffs. Our players are enjoying it.
"Our situation is we want to make sure we're doing little things right and trying to not give their high-skill players easy opportunities. Their team, they have some top players there that if you give them easy ways to the net they're going to find ways to hurt you."
Enjoyment is not a word Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville would use to describe it, especially since the patient approach of the Coyotes resulted in Chicago losses in two of the first three games. And it seems to be a growing trend for the Hawks, who also went to OT in their final two playoff games last spring.
"The games have been tight, back and forth, game's always been on the line," Quenneville said of Games 1-3, in which no team held more than a one-goal lead. "I think when you're playing Phoenix you have to have patience in your team game and you want to make sure you're checking first, as opposed to trying to outscore them and getting into a rush game with their active defencemen.
"I still think we can be better in certain areas and I think certain areas means we can be harder to play against."
Meanwhile, as if losing star Marian Hossa as the fallout of Tuesday's cheapshot from Coyotes forward Raffi Torres wasn't enough, Quenneville took another shot on Thursday when the league slapped him with a $10,000 fine. The 'Hawks coach was practically foaming at the mouth when he was sharply critical of the officiating in Game 3.
Hossa didn't dress Thursday and Quenneville declined to address his status for future games in the series, which resumes Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.