The Cinderella story of the playoffs will continue into the next round. The Phoenix Coyotes are making their first trip to the Western Conference Finals in the franchise’s 33-year history. The Coyotes knocked off the Predators in five games. The Coyotes clinched the series with a 2-1 victory of the Predators Monday night in Glendale.
Again, the Coyotes were relying on goaltender Mike Smith to win them a series. He did not disappoint. Smith was superb in the net making timely saves for the Coyotes. With the pressure clearly on the Coyotes late in games four and five, Smith made some outstanding saves to preserve the victory for his teammates. In game five, Smith stopped 32 shots he faced. He can now be considered a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Coyotes get to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Coyotes withstood a flurry of Predators shots early in game five. But as usual Phoenix took the Predators best shots and countered with some of their own. Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal scored for the Coyotes in the second period. The Coyotes made it interesting for the fans as they have done all season. Phoenix has been use to playing in close games. Nashville got on the board late in the game, but Smith closed the door on the rally.
With the loss, Nashville has lost for the second straight year in the conference semifinals. Nashville could not take advantage of the chances they were given. Phoenix was able to put the puck in the net, while Nashville could not. After being knocked around in the first two games, Pekka Rinne got into a zone. Rinne played stellar in games three through five, but did not get the goal support to win games. Rinne kept his team in all the games, but the Predators could not score.
The Coyotes have won games all season by grinding out the victory. They do not make it look pretty. Their fans are nervous in every game. Relying on their goaltender, the Coyotes won their first division title as an NHL franchise and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
Their grinding style frustrated Nashville all series long. They did not allow Nashville any second or third opportunities. Phoenix mentality all season long has been to protect leads at all cost. That mentality can be linked to Head Coach Dave Tippett and General Manager Don Maloney. They have assembled a team of hard working players that never quit. Credit needs to be given to them for the team performing this well.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan has been waiting his whole hockey career for a shot to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. Doan played in his 50th career playoff game. His team will have a tough test ahead of them as they face the red-hot Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals