Everything in life should be taken in its proper context. Kudos to the majority of the Phoenix Coyotes players, those who put an enormous amount of heart and effort into their entire season, had a great playoff run and, when it ended, conducted themselves with dignity instead of pettiness. Kudos, also, to the vast majority of Phoenix fans, those who supported their team well throughout the postseason, who hopefully will have a team to cheer for in decades to come, and who had the class not to throw bottles and trash onto the ice. Hopefully, soon, the more emotional of the Coyotes will walk back their postgame comments — and perhaps do a little self-reflection — and rightfully take pride in a great season. Many pundits had written off the Coyotes before their first regular-season game. They showed extraordinary tenacity in winning the Pacific Division and knocking off Chicago and Nashville, and they lost a conference-finals series that should be remembered as being much closer than the 4-1 series margin would indicate.
The Coyotes will have to transition a bit at some point, because they have a handful of older players, but the nucleus appears to be in place, with goalie Mike Smith and a core of defensemen led by emerging star Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With their ownership situation apparently on the way to being resolved, the franchise can start to focus on hockey, but next season they will have to deal with something new: expectations. No longer will the Coyotes be able to thrive under the radar. They have the talent to deal with it, though. Here’s how The Arizona Republic covered last night’s game, followed by some additional postgame quotes from the Coyotes…
COACH DAVE TIPPETT
(on the game…) “We didn’t capitalize on a power play early, a couple other opportunities. Couldn’t push the game along. We knew it was going to be a tight game. It ended up that way. Just couldn’t get on top of it.’’
(on the game…) “I’m just really proud of our players, how hard they worked to get here, what they’ve done for this organization, not just tonight, but for the whole year. This has been an unbelievable group to work with. You know, it’s too bad it ends so suddenly like that tonight. There will be some frustration for a few days. But ultimately I think our players should look back and feel good about a lot of the things that they accomplished this year. We have a lot of young players that this experience has been unbelievable for. Players Boedker, Ekman-Larsson, that this will help them grow, continue to strengthen our organization. I think we all recognize what Mike Smith has done for this organization this year, giving us real stability at that position. The frustration will go away and the building of a new team for next year will start very soon. You know, I just think these guys here should be really — I think the amount that this team gave to get us to this spot I don’t think should be taken lightly or forgotten easily. This is an incredible group. How hard they worked to get here should be well-recognized.’’
(on his reaction to Dustin Brown’s hit on Michal Rozsival…) “It’s not going to do any good right now. I think you guys should just write what you saw. If you write what you saw, you’ll see why people get frustrated. You know, the players, I mean, there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into this. There’s a lot of emotion in the game. It is what it is. L.A. played well. Early in the series they played very well. Ultimately, the last two games, I thought were our best games, but they were too late. L.A. beat us. That’s what should be remembered, not the refereeing.’’
(on whether the Coyotes actually lost the series after the first two games…) “I thought we had a lot of players that were a little bit awestruck in Game 1, you know. Young players, we talked about the bar getting raised, and you’re going to have to be better. In Game 1 I think we stood around and watched the game a lot. Game 2, first half of the game I thought we played very well, got ourselves in it, got ourselves in penalty trouble. Really for the rest of the series after that, it was very tight. You know, I think part of it you got to give them credit for what they’re doing. They’re playing a pretty complete game there those first few games. We went in, played a strong Game 4. Smith gave us a heck of a game. Doan gave us a heck of a game. And I thought it was a very competitive game tonight. There’s plays that dictate the outcome. Everybody wants to play hard, but there’s plays that dictate the outcome usually. We were able to dictate it in Game 4. They just had more plays in the first two games of the series. They had more plays to attempt to dictate it. We didn’t have enough. The last couple games, we had more, and it was close.
(on what Mike Smith meant to the team…) “Well, he was certainly our most valuable player on our team without a doubt. You know, he’s been an incredible story this year, of a guy that came in, was looking for an opportunity. It’s one thing to give a player an opportunity; it’s another thing what he does with it. What he’s done, he’s come in, established himself as a top goaltender in the NHL. If there were any questions after the regular season, there should be no questions now because he was our best player in the playoffs. The reason we got to this point is because of his play.’’
(on the end of the season…) “It feels awful, and you don’t want to be a part of it. You have to give credit to LA. They played a great series. They are playing really well right now and have a bunch of guys playing well.’’
(on the penalties called on him in the serie…) “I look back on the last two games and I still haven’t found where I got my three penalties. I have absolutely no idea where they came from or what they were calling. It’s hard because you don’t want to take anything away from L.A. because they played unbelievably and give them all the credit.’’
(on the officiating…) “They know we don’t have an owner. They know we don’t have anyone to back us up. In the end, I don’t know if it’s an easy way, to not make calls and not show up. I know they wear the same color jerseys as them, the refs as the Kings, but they didn’t have to play for them.’’
(on whether the Coyotes lost any focus after the hit on Rozsival…) “We have to take some blame for it too and not settle down and just keep playing. It’s something where we could have just settled down and continued to play.’’
(on not getting calls in overtime…) “There was the delay of game, where we got one with 20 seconds left. Four guys could have not have seen that like the other two. I know the game is fast, but there are four guys out there. You would think that maybe one person would see it.’’