The Phoenix Coyotes have adopted a mantra for their team: “Hockey The Hard Way,” which fits this team to a T.
The Coyotes aren’t the flashiest team, nor the highest scoring team in the league, but when all is said and done, they get the job done, and if they can manage to defeat the Blackhawks on Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena, they’ll win a first round series for the first time since moving to Arizona in 1996.
Injuries and suspensions have threatened to destroy this team, but according to head coach Dave Tippett, they seem to thrive on adversity.
“Adversity, we’ve turned it into a motivating force for us,” Tippett said. “The adversity that our team goes through on and off the ice is something that’s made our group a lot stronger.”
Forwards Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski went down in Game 2 due to lower body injuries, and neither has played since.
In hockey, players go down all the time, but in the playoffs, a few injuries here and there can make the difference between winning a series and losing a series.
Fortunately for the Coyotes, they’ve seen this movie quite a few times this season, and they know how it plays out: with someone stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to be done to win.
Case in point: forward Mikkel Boedker, who singlehandedly ripped the hearts out of the Blackhawks and their faithful in Chicago on Tuesday and Thursday with game winning goals in overtime.
Overtime is the operative word here. For the first time since the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals, each game in this series has gone into overtime.
Will Game 5 go to overtime? On Saturday night, we will be witnesses.
Boedker knows that even though the Coyotes regained the home ice this week, the Blackhawks won’t just lie down and give them the series. They’re going to have to knock Chicago out to move on to the second round against the Predators.
“We don’t want them to have any freebies out there,” Boedker said. “We want to play a tight, strong team game.”
“Obviously, a Game 5 here, we have a chance to win on home ice, and that’s going to be an important factor for us.”