Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 4/9/12
San_jose_sharks_70b3


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

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 7

John Wall warns Lonzo Ball about having target on his back

Eric Bledsoe raises suspicion with tweet

Browns select empty seat to win prize

Hue Jackson critical after DeShone Kizer stayed out late Friday

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Carson Palmer to miss eight weeks with broken arm

Mitchell Trubisky leads Bears to win despite completing just four passes

Red Sox confirm Alex Cora as new manager

Joe Thomas misses his first career snap after injuring arm

Dolphins fans cheer after Jay Cutler leaves with injury

Browns bench DeShone Kizer again, bring in Cody Kessler

MLS Decision Day: East to be a rumble while West up for grabs

Most prominent sports bans on the 5th anniversary of the Lance Armstrong ban

Sports & Politics Intersect: Cubs owner up for Heritage Foundation post

The 'Like Mike, only better' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Dodgers finish Cubs while Astros find pain in the Bronx

The 'Some call me the Rocket, some people call me Maurice' quiz

Kyrie Irving must lead Celtics through a disaster in search for happiness

Jacoby Brissett: The forgotten up-and-comer

NFL Week 7 Predictions

The 'Can I have a quick sword with you?' quiz

College football 2017 Week 8 predictions

NFL Referee Hotline Bling: Austin Seferian-Jenkins drops a call

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!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

MLS Decision Day: East to be a rumble while West up for grabs

Most prominent sports bans on the 5th anniversary of the Lance Armstrong ban

Houston Astros hold off Yankees, forcing Game 7

Sports & Politics Intersect: Cubs owner up for Heritage Foundation post

The 'Like Mike, only better' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Dodgers finish Cubs while Astros find pain in the Bronx

The 'Some call me the Rocket, some people call me Maurice' quiz

Kyrie Irving must lead Celtics through a disaster in search for happiness

Jacoby Brissett: The forgotten up-and-comer

NFL Week 7 Predictions

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker