One storied season, here's to many more
There is so much to celebrate in the season that concluded last night. But with a final score of 6-1, that may not be so visible right away.
Example: most teams down by that many would just let go and skate out the final minutes, disgraced by the insurmountable embarrassment. Not the Phoenix Coyotes, who pushed towards the opposing zone and continually away from their own, not wanting Ilya Bryzgalov to have to suffer any more than he already had up until that point. There was the same frenetic pace in their movements as there had been all game long, despite knowing their initial mission had failed.
The game itself was about the constant battle of momentum, played out for the most part in the second period. Datsyuk grabbed the wind out of the Coyotes' sails. Fiddler got it back. Lidstrom had his own input. And the backbreaker: Brad Stuart.
That one was a real pain to watch, as I'm probably not alone in having hoped for a similar fate to happen to Hanzal or Aucoin beforehand. The power play once again became that thorn in Phoenix's side, and off that failed 5-on-3, it was almost nightmarish to watch what happened next. It played out like a nightmare, for starters. Because a) that fateful ill-pass was timed for the worst possible occurrence, and b) you'd expect that sort of thing to happen with a Zetterberg or a Filppula, but the chance was still there that anyone could somehow tuck that in.
So, an opportunity was missed. The first round was not won. Or was it?
For a team that was stamped 14th in the West in the bulk of summertime predictions, pushing the defending Stanley Cup finalists to the limit should bring a great deal of pride. Sadness, disappointment, and anger at the outcome perhaps, but not many a first-round opponent would have been able to do the same. Surely not one short a Toews, a Heatley, or a set of Sedins to call their own.
There are elements of this team that make them unforgettable, on the ice and off. From a murky coaching situation and words like bankruptcy floating around, they managed to make their environment into a positive one. They made it seven, all right, maybe not in the way Jim Balsille wanted, but in a way that could be defined as their own.
Tippett for Jack Adams. Bryz for Vezina. And as of next year, the quest for the piece of hardware a whole team can celebrate.