They were supposed to not be an existant NHL team. Their head coach was an NHL legend who didn’t want to stand behind the bench anymore. Their owner declared the team bankrupt then, behind the NHL’s back, looked to make a deal with an owner looking to relocate. The Phoenix Coyotes should have been in Hamilton, Kansas City, Las Vegas. Instead, they are in the playoffs and hosting the Red Wings in round one.
Of the three possible playoff opponents (also San Jose and Vancouver) facing the Wings on the final weekend, Phoenix at first glance seems to be the best option for round one. As Wings fans have realized year after year, a hot goalie makes all of the difference in round one of the playoffs. Ilya Bryzgalov plays the role of spoiler this year with his 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage. He’s kept the team in many games this year and the lack of team depth mixed with some youth has created a unique dynamic that led to 50 wins this season for Dave Tippett’s squad.
This matchup also brings back some great memories from earlier in the latest Wings dynasty when Jets/Coyotes series’ were the norm. The white-outs that seemed to be a regular sight in April playoff games will return when this week’s games start up Glendale. There’s no reason to expect the Wings to take this one in five or six in front of Phoenix’s sparse crowds.
Oct. 22: Wings 2, @Coyotes 3 (OT); Dec. 14: Coyotes 2, @Wings 3; Jan. 2: Wings 4, @Coyotes 1; Jan. 26: Coyotes 5, @Wings 4 (OT)