The Phoenix Coyotes handled the Nashville Predators, ending the series in five and sending the team to their first Western Conference finals appearance in franchise history.
Though the Coyotes finished the season winning the Pacific division and entered the playoffs as the third seed in the West , the club was never considered a conference powerhouse.
Here are reasons the Coyotes’ remarkably rousing run to the WCF has been more impressive than the Los Angeles Kings’:
Talent on Roster
The Kings are loaded with standout luminaries such as Dustin Brown (11 points), Anze Kopitar (10 points), Mike Richards (eight points), Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter. Jonathan Quick, who’s been outstanding all year, has really made a name for himself in these playoffs. The team is comprised of young stars you’d target in a fantasy draft. Across center ice, you’ve got a veritable blend of veterans and ‘unsexy’ names. I mean, heck, the Kings’ fifth-leading scorer in the postseason (Dustin Penner) is more widely-known than the Coyotes’ leading point man so far (Mikkel Boedker).
The Coyotes have faced resistance and overcome obstacles
Many predicted the Chicago Blackhawks to vanquish the Coyotes in the first round. It was a tight series, with each of the first five games being decided by just one goal. Who could forget Patrick Sharp’s goal to even it up with 5.5 seconds left followed by Bryan Bickell’s winner in Game 2? With the series evened up at one apiece, the Coyotes were forced to rally to take Game 3. That was the game where Raffi Torres launched himself like a Naval Strike Missile into Marian Hossa, earning a lengthy suspension in the process. Both the fourth and fifth games required overtime, each team taking a game. Phoenix then closed it out in convincing fashion in Game 6. The Kings have gone 8-1 in the 2012 NHL playoffs, their only loss a 3-1 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks.
Strength of Competition
Though the Kings have knocked off the top two seeds in the West, it can be argued that the Coyotes have faced the stiffer competition. Once the Kings chased Roberto Luongo from the series (and perhaps simultaneously ushered him out of town), and then jumped out to a 3-0 lead, the writing was on the wall. They faced an inexperienced and often shaky Brian Elliott in the second round. Phoenix slugged it out with Chicago, then drew who many expected to represent the West in the finals, Nashville. They went out and made the unflappable Pekka Rinne look ordinary and took the series.
In their series versus Vancouver, the Kings were able to play their style of hockey: they kept the games close, were effective in limiting quality chances around the net and had Quick steal a couple of games for them. They advanced, drawing the most ideal opponent for them in the second round in St. Louis. The Blues, too, play a low-scoring and defensive brand of hockey but ultimately were no match for the Kings’ attack. The Blackhawks brought firepower, experience and physical play to the table, leading many to believe the Coyotes didn’t stand a chance in the opening round. They survived – then of course took out Nashville, a legit Cup contender.