As we did for the first game of the Ducks/Coyotes Mini-Series, Carl Putnam from Five for Howling and I exchanged three questions. You can find his questions for me on their site and his answers below. Enjoy!
Chris: Obviously you're happy with the result of Saturday's game, but what about the team defense that the Coyotes are so known for? It seemed like there was more of a reliance on Mike Smith in net. Do you expect that to continue for the next few games?
Carl: I thought the Coyotes' defense improved as the game went on (or maybe the Ducks just got tired). They've been reliant on Smith to make big stops just as they did Bryz against every team not just the Ducks. The defensive coverage has been an issue on and off this season. Saturday night's first goal wasn't the first time Keith Yandle got beat for instance, nor were the Ducks opportunities from the middle high slot a surprise.
Chris: Speaking of team defense, has Oliver Ekman-Larsson officially taken over as the go-to-guy on the Phoenix blueline, after Kieth Yandle signed long term a few years back?
Carl: Last year the team began grooming OEL to be a first pairing D-man and this year he is. He's playing the hardest blueline minutes along with partner Zbynek Michalek. He's also playing in every situation. His play against Anaheim the other night was a prime example of how he's become one of the best in the league. He wasn't on the ice for any of Anaheim's four goals and was on the ice for the final two goals by the Coyotes. He's the whole package.
Yandle's play tends to be more up and down and he's nowhere near the two way player that OEL is. While Yandle is a dangerous offensive weapon, he's not a great defender as you witnessed on the goal I referred to in my answer to your first question.
Chris: How much have the losses of Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata affected the Coyotes over the past two weeks, and especially as it relates to the game against the Ducks?
Carl: Hanzal and Vrbata being out of the lineup has hurt tremendously. I believe the team could have swept their Canadian road trip and beat the Wild with both of them in the lineup. Obviously, missing two of the three members of any team's top line is going to hurt, but both guys are more than just offensive weapons. They both have the ability to shut down the opposition as well. Finally, the Coyotes could have used Vrbata's patented shootout move each of the past two Saturdays.