April 12, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes center Martin Hanzal (11) is congratulated by goalie Mike Smith (41) after scoring winning goal in overtime to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in game one of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Intel on the Coyotes

Firstly, I’m quite happy Nashville are playing these guys. I really don’t care as much from the standpoint of who the Preds matchup better with. That could go either way. Mostly, I’m happy to see Phoenix out of the first round. That’s a franchise that needs some good vibes, and playoff hockey can cure about any illness (except a $500 million city debt in Glendale). It’s for guys like Shane Doan, and the fans that stuck with that team through a poor arena decision, constant rumors of relocation, having their franchise goalie bolt for a ridiculous contract, and the obvious “they’re playing hockey in the desert? lulz” reverb.

But kid yourself no further, this team is good.

Phoenix doesn’t do it all with smoke and mirrors. And they don’t do it all with kids, there are 3 guys in that crimson jersey with a silver stick. But they’ve drafted well over the years and players like Oliver Ekman-Larson and Mikkel Boedker, who will challenge their opposition as much as they challenge spellchecks everywhere. They’re structured, they’re savvy, and they pick undisciplined defenses apart. Remember the two meetings at home?

 

Sure, that was a different team back in the first three months the Coyotes exposed, but it should still remind you of what they can do. They’re a defensive structured team, and protect the goalie very well. When the Coyotes defense is working at its best, it resembles the Detroit style of collapsing around their net and shoveling away the rebound. This might not be as easy as the pundits are picking.

Plus, Mike Smith is playing out of his damn mind.

 

The good news? That Chicago series was an absolute war. Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Michael Roszival (more names that will test the proofreader) all are nicked up. Raffi Torres won’t be around for this one.

Playoff series aren’t won on talent, speed, and size alone. It’s just as much being savvy, creative, and not making mistakes. It’s playing smart. The Coyotes on most nights play very smart.

I felt this was relevant.

Beating the Coyotes will be a bigger challenge than Detroit in a few areas. This is a team led by a captain that’s VERY hungry to win, and guys like Ray Whitney and Derrick Morris have had their share of experience as well. Mike Smith was outstanding against Chicago, and won’t be beaten easily. He’ll need to be tested with misdirection, something the Predators did very well as the season went on and had great success against Jimmy Howard. But most importantly, Nashville will have to keep up their physical play. While Raffi Torres wasn’t the offensive force, he was more than enough in the grit department. With him gone, Phoenix will look to Doan and Kyle Chipchura to win the physical battles.

There’s a look to look forward to in this series. Two similar teams, and two nearly similar stories. You have to be at least a little happy for Phoenix breaking through the first round for the first time since moving to Arizona.

Tags: Derrick Morris Martin Hanzal Mike Smith NHL Oliver Ekman-larson Phoenix Coyotes Ray Whitney Shane Doan

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