Triple digit heat for the first time all year. Fox Sports AZ broadcasting from Westgate Plaza outside Saddle Ranch Chop House pumping up the fans to a near frenzy. A sold out Jobing.com. Fans dressed in white waiting for something that has yet to happen for this franchise. Advancing to the second round, excuse me, the semi-finals of the Western Conference. All it will take is a full 60 minutes of hockey. That is it. Training camp in August. All the practices and the split squad scrimmages in September. 82 games over the last past 7 months culminate in 60 minutes tonight. On home ice. In front of a crowd that just wants to see you win. To take the next step.
Standing in our way is the Chicago Blackhawks. Comeback specialists of this series. But only coming back in the third period. Not capitalizing on the momentum shift for overtime. So much offensive talent in players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Patrick Kane. Norris candidate Duncan Keith anchors not only the offensive side but also the defensive side on the blue line. Hjalmarsson is trying to play the role of Rocky Balboa in taking punishment from Shane Doan all series. Hjalmarsson laid a huge hit on Doan in game 1. Shane said it is on. He will hit Hjalmarsson every shift of not just game 1, but the entire series. And then next year, expect to see #19 bearing down on you. Shane is the Terminator. He does not stop, does not quit. He just keeps coming after you. Perhaps a name change will confuse Shane for a game or two. I suggest Magnus Magnusson.
Mikkel Boedker becoming the hero of game three and four. Using his speed, his quickness, his hockey knowledge. Putting the puck on the net, hoping for good things to happen. Showing why he was the 8th overall pick in the draft, Boeds has taken the ice time he has earned and made the most of it. Taylor Pyatt, a forgotten man for many games this season, is having the kind of playoff series last seen out of him in his Buffalo Sabres days. OEL has become an elite defenseman, something everyone who watched him skate in the NHL knew he would be. His playmaking has caught up to his skating. Derek Morris and Adrian Aucoin are moving bodies in front of the net and closing down shooting lanes for the Chicago forwards, keeping shots to the outside. The Coyotes would not be where they are without Rusty Klesla. Scoring goals, jumping into the play in the offensive zone, and being in the right position at the right time defensively.
Throw in role players Kyle Chipchura, Gabriel Brule, PAUL BISSONNETTE, Marc-Antoine Pouliott. Coach Tippett used to call it a pack mentality. It is a team mentality. Everyone chips in, everyone contributes, the team wins. The backbone of this team is Mike Smith. Smitty is showing why goaltending matters in the playoffs. Smitty is showing why team won the Pacific Division. He is standing tall and a wall. The team MVP from the regular season is making his case for it in the playoffs.
Now the coaches. Incredible job of preparing the boys for what they will face in Chicago. Boedker talked about after the game 4 winner how coach John Anderson would stay after practice and help him with his shot. All season they worked on it. Whenever Boeds wanted extra practice, there was Johnny. Boeds then credited him with some of the mental aspects of the game no one can prepare you for. Prepare the mind, prepare the body.
Lastly, the long suffering fans. Those like the Kaminski family. Season ticket holders since day one. Traveling from the West Valley to US Airways arena. Emotionally invested for 15 years. So invested they traveled to Prague to see the Coyotes open last season. They’ve become friends with the other season tickets holders around them. Their son has known no other team other than the Coyotes. He can be seen roaming the concourse in his Kaminski jersey. Mike and Leslie, sitting in section 109. Watching the Coyotes attack twice, every game, every season. I want to see the Kaminski’s react when the Coyotes reach the semifinals, and then the finals. I want them to win a day with the Stanley Cup, courtesy of Discover. They are the epitome of what this franchise needs. Fans as emotionally invested as they are financially.
We as fans need this. We deserve this. The franchise needs this. And Shane Doan, Jesus to us, needs this. I want this win for Shane. For all he has given. Like the Kaminski’s, this is all he has known. It it his time, it is our time, it is Coyote time.