Shane Doan is taking this team to the promised land. Leading the series 3 games to 1 and returning to home ice, this franchise is making believers out of everyone. The product on the ice is incredibly well coached and prepared. Mike Smith is a force in the net, stopping all shots and making Nashville play in a manner that tips the balance of power to himself. Shaking off the 2 goals allowed in game three, Smitty turned in a stellar performance in getting the shutout in game four and sending Phoenix 1 win away from reaching the Western Conference finals.
When asked about the game three events in the first period, Coach Dave Tippett pointed out that the defenseman for the Coyotes did not get back to provider proper support to allow Smith to move the puck around the boards on the forehand. He had to move to his backhand, and that change in strategy allowed Nashville to jump into the passing lane and intercept the pass. The Fisher goal was the puck taking a right angle bounce after Smith dropped his stick on the ice to prevent the centering pass. Smith himself, before game 4, said that he would make the pass on the forehand again as that is the correct play. And no, he won’t be handling the puck less. That is his game, his forte. Smith’s save percentage in the four games of this series is: 0.929, 0.909, 0.923, and 1.000. His save percentage through ten playoff games is 0.946. And he has 2 shutouts to go along with his 1 assist. And do not forget, he was left off the Vezina trophy consideration list. And Tampa Bay put him on waivers along with sending him to the AHL. Is there a way to give Sean Burke honorable mention for coach of the year?
An under appreciated role player is Kyle Chipchura. The fourth line energy center seems to do all the little things necessary. He digs the puck out from the corner, he goes strong to the net. He forechecks. And he drops the mitts when his team needs the boost or to protect his teammate. Kyle gave up height and weight when he took on Paul Gaustad. Wayne Gretzky talks about how after losing to the Islanders in the Stanley Cup, they walked by the Islander dressing room. Here the Islanders had just won the Cup, and what were they doing? Sitting with ice packs on every square inch of their bodies. It was at that point that he realized what you have to do to win. Go all out. The team that wins is the one that needs the most ice packs. And tonight, Chipchura is going to need some ice packs.
That leaves us with Shane Doan. Tonight’s lone goal scorer. During a NHL Live inteview (on the NHL Network), Shane’s stats were shown beneath his live image. 9 games played, 2 goals, 2 assists, +3 ranking, and 41 hits. He said the team goal was for a split. And they did that. Getting the second game. Coming back home with momentum and a 3-1 series lead. Shane talked about what the team needs to do better (cannot make mistakes, cannot shoot from outside, go to the net hungrier, create things that way). Well, that is what Shane did tonight. He went to the net hard, got the rebound, and put it back on Rinne. And it went in off his backhand.
Shane then got questioned about his playoff beard (he has never had one this long). And about hockey in the desert and how fans are coming out for the games, selling out Jobing.com. Shane immediately said it has been great seeing the fans there when the plane lands. 1000-1500 people there to welcome them. The building is packed. This is the first time they have played hockey in May. And then why he is Jesus. Why he is the ambassador. “It is nice to kind of reward our fans. They have had to go through a lot being our fans for the last little while here. And they have stuck by us and it is has a lot of fun.”
Shane, it has been our pleasure. The amount of attention the team is finally receiving is a reward for your hard work and dedication to remaining a Coyote. What followed the interview? A Stanley Cup commercial featuring nothing but the Coyotes and the WhiteOut.
This is our year. This is our time. We Believe In The Coyotes.