Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 10/19/14

For the third consecutive season, the Phoenix Coyotes made it to the postseason on the back of their tight-knit, defensive system. Can they force other teams to play that game during the postseason?

Head coach Dave Tippett is simply a mastermind with the Xs and Os. After losing important pieces to the puzzle like Kyle Turris, Ilya Bryzgalov, Vernon Fiddler, Lee Stempniak, and Eric Belanger, Tippett found a way for his team to get even better. His teams succeed mainly because he teaches them how to play his game, and win on the strength of good defensive play.

That is how Tippett turned Radim Vrbata, a 10-year veteran, into a 35-goal scorer. He also made Mike Smith, a once-promising goalie turned backup, into a Vezina Trophy candidate. That is why young defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson could vie for the Norris Trophy one day.

Those players have pedigree and would add value to most hockey teams. What impresses me is how Tippett takes discarded journeymen like Kyle Chipchura and Gilbert Brule and turns them back into serviceable NHL players. Earlier in the season, he also utilized castaways like Patrick O'Sullivan, Alex Bolduc, and Marc-Andre Pouliot, to name a few others.

In other words, he's found a way to make something out of nothing. For three consecutive seasons.

But now Tippett and company need to find a way to win on their own terms during this year's playoff run. To do so, they will need the Chicago Blackhawks to alter their style of play and tighten up defensively. Similar to the Detroit Red Wings-- the team who defeated the Coyotes in each of the last two seasons-- the Blackhawks focus on puck possession and offense. Can Tippett force them to alter their game plan?

Tippett knows it won't be easy, and it will require a team effort but he remains optimistic.

"We've worked hard, gone through some trials and tribulations throughout this year and the guys have hung in there," Tippett explained to Yahoo Sports. "There were some times when it could have turned the other way and our guys grabbed it and kept pushing along. We've finished on a nice streak and hopefully we'll play our best hockey of the season in the playoffs."

Tippett feels that the Coyotes could further improve their showing over the last month in order to achieve a first round victory. That would mean playing better than their season ending five-game winning streak where they outscored their opponents 16-2. It would also mean playing better than their performance over the last month, where they went 9-2-4.

That sort of confidence in his players is exactly what has propelled this team to vault past their expectations en route to a Pacific Division title. It is also why they are the favored seed against a club that won the Stanley Cup just two years ago. The task of defeating the Blackhawks won't be easy, but getting there wasn't either.

So the Coyotes enter the postseason as one of the NHL's biggest question marks, and possibly the biggest dark horse. Smith has arguably been the hottest starting goalie in hockey with the ability to steal game after game. Should he display that elite play, this club could really surprise some people.

While the Coyotes are still owned by the league and rumors surround their 'imminent' move out of Arizona, this club managed to win their division for the first time in team history. Home ice advantage won't mean as much to them entering the playoffs, but knowing they can win on the strength of their system should give them the confidence they need to succeed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Five storylines to watch in the 2014 World Series

Favre delays Lambeau return due of Bart Starr’s health

Cowboys release Michael Sam from practice squad

Fan in critical condition after being beaten before Bears game

Ben Roethlisberger rips the media

Tim Tebow: Gators don't have offensive leadership, lack heart


Colts punter asks Antonio Brown not to kick him in face

NFL: Luke Kuechly should not have been ejected

Report: Okla. St. players fell asleep in drive-thru, arrested

Oscar Pistorius sentenced to five years in prison

Mike Pettine considered benching Hoyer for Manziel

Percy Harvin speaks out: 'I'm not a perfect person'

Jets sign Jeremy Kerley to $16M 4-year extension

10 teams that should try to trade for Yoenis Cespedes

Lego stadiums: turning a childhood hobby into a business

Bayless: Kobe's sexual assault trial gave him 'edge' and 'sizzle'

Blackhawks make leukemia patient's dream come true

College football's post-Week 8 Playoff projection

Ortiz surprised military families with World Series tickets

NFL Power Rankings Week 7

Floyd Mayweather posts photo evidence of a lost bet

WATCH: Paul George takes court for first time since leg injury

Five most surprising NFL players through seven weeks

WATCH: Boxer viciously attacks referee at Euro Championships

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

10 teams that should try to trade for Yoenis Cespedes

Five storylines to watch in the 2014 World Series

Ben Roethlisberger rips media

NFL Power Rankings Week 7

Pistorius sentenced to five years

Lane Kiffin trashed in political ad

Details of War Machine's suicide letter leaked

Angry Jimbo Fisher cuts off interview

Is Kobe's deal hurting the Lakers?

Tenn. coach tried to trip Ole Miss CB?

GGG continues his reign of terror

The 6 things that mattered this weekend in the premier league

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.