Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 4/30/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hello, Pekka Rinne. Were the voices inside your head. You know our names. Were the guys who haunt your nights. Were the guys who crash your net. Were the guys who own you. Were the Phoenix Coyotes, and were coming to your house soon -- very soon. Do you remember four short days ago, when this Western Conference semifinal series was being billed as a battle of elite goaltenders? There was, after all, a good reason. Rinne was coming off a strong performance against Detroit and had just been named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the leagues best goaltender. Coyotes goalie Mike Smith had just turned in one of historys more memorable playoff series, stopping 95 percent of the shots he faced off the sticks of the Chicago Blackhawks star-studded lineup. But the playoffs are a funny thing. One rounds god is another rounds goat. To the rest of the league, Rinne may be a Vezina candidate. To the Coyotes, hes Murray Bannerman. Phoenix scored early and Phoenix scored often in a 5-3 win Sunday at Jobing.com Arena to take a 2-0 series lead as the series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4. Sundays game marked the fourth time in six meetings with Rinne this season that the Coyotes have scored at least four goals. In six games against Rinne, the Coyotes have 21 goals, an average of 3.5 per game. To put that in perspective, Rinne allowed 2.39 per game overall during the regular season. To put it in greater perspective, the nine goals the Coyotes have scored in these two games equals the total the Red Wings scored in five games against the Predators in the first round of the playoffs. Youre familiar with the Red Wings, right? Datsyuk. Zetterberg. Lidstrom. I have to be better, no question, Rinne said in a quiet Nashville locker room Sunday night. You have to have a short memory and move forward. That might be best, because the Coyotes scored every way imaginable on Sunday. It was a house of horrors for Rinne. They crashed the net for goals from Martin Hanzal and Taylor Pyatt. They got a deflection from captain Shane Doan. They got a brilliant backdoor feed from Keith Yandle to playoff ace Antoine Vermette -- thanks to some good board work from Mikkel Boedker. And they got plenty of help from their erstwhile defensive-minded opponent. With the Coyotes leading 2-1, the Predators first-ever draft pick, David Legwand, tried to glove a fluttering puck out of harms way behind the net. Instead, he batted it right over the cage and onto the stick of Coyotes wing Radim Vrbata in the slot. Vrbata accepted the offering with grace by depositing it into the Nashville net. It was one of many Nashville blunders, with an inordinate amount of them coming from the Predators blue-liners. I dont think our defense corps has played well at all in this series, Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. Weve been real light. Five-on-five, how many times are they standing next to one of their guys and theyre whacking pucks at the net? Trotz wasnt exactly ringing in his endorsement of Rinnes play, either. Hes been OK, but the team in front of him hasnt, he said. Hes right about the defense, but OK goaltending wont get it done in the playoffs. Neither will booting rebounds into the slot, as Rinne did on Pyatts goal. Neither will getting caught badly out of position, as he did on Hanzals goal when Vrbata was able to slip a pass between his pads from behind the net. In the playoffs, your goalies have to do more than stop the shots theyre supposed to stop. They have to stop those and a few theyre not supposed to stop. Thats what Smith did in the first round against the Blackhawks. Smiths performance Sunday was average, but hes allowed one average game given what hes done thus far in the postseason. Average would be a welcome improvement for Rinne against the Coyotes. "I don't think we're surprised, but we're definitely grateful getting some goals, for sure," Doan said. "We were thinking it was going to be hard no matter what goalie we played in the playoffs. We're going to keep doing that same thing." The Coyotes have a simple game plan when facing Rinne. A lot of shots, and keep it low because hes very good on his glove, Hanzal said. A lot of shots and traffic at the net. Thats hardly a revelation in tactical hockey, but in terms of executing, the Coyotes have been letter perfect. If it continues, this will clearly be a short series, but nobody in a red sweater on Sunday was expecting Rinne to cave. "We're not expecting to get nine more (goals) in the next two (games), Doan cautioned. We know how good he is and what he's capable of doing."
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