It’s a place they haven’t been since moving from Winnipeg to Glendale, Ariz., back in 1996.
Just because they finally got beyond a point in their season – which in past seasons always signaled the end of their season – doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate.
This team knows there is a lot more work to do before any real celebrating can take place.
That work starts this Friday night in Glendale, as they host Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Nashville Predators, a team whom they split four games with during the regular season.
Head coach Dave Tippett knows the Predators are a tough draw, but he has the utmost confidence in his guys.
“We realize they’re going to be a good team,” Tippett said. “We’ve got to try to make sure we play our game, play to our identity and we need everybody to contribute.”
Which the role players on this team did against the Blackhawks when Martin Hanzal and Lori Korpikoski went out with injuries, and Raffi Torres went out due to a suspension.
Perhaps the most important thing about this Coyotes team is the fact that they believe in each other, which goes a long way, especially as they progress further in the playoffs.
“I think the biggest thing about winning in the playoffs is playing as a group and believing in what we’re doing to get us through hockey games,” goalie Mike Smith said.
Smith’s friend and counterpart, goalie Pekka Rinne, has been playing just as solid for the Predators as Smith has for the Coyotes.
You want to know how evenly matched this series will be just from a goaltending perspective? Smith and Rinne have the same exact goals against average of 1.81.
In layman’s terms: good luck scoring any goals in this series.
Forward Mikkel Boedker knows playing Nashville will be just like playing each other in a five-on-five simulated game in practice.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be impossible to win, it means they’ll have to be creative in their scoring methods.
“Every time you have the puck, you want to create,” Boedker said. “You also got to think to put the puck in the right areas and have a purpose every time you have it.”
And according to captain Shane Doan, to go along with those opportunities, guys have got to be willing to step out of the box and do “the little things” to win, because in most cases, the team who can do the little things consistently, more often than not has a great shot of hoisting the Stanley Cup trophy.