Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 5/16/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. When Game 1 of the Western Conference Final ended, Phoenix's hopes could be summed up in this quote by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "To be successful on the ice in this league, every team has to deal with adversity," Bettman said. "But everyone in this organization seems to have a master's degree in it." The Coyotes had overcome obstacles before. They had waited three years for an owner. They had won despite a lack of stars. They had been dominated for long stretches against Chicago and Nashville, yet found a way to slip past both of those clubs in the postseason. They were adversity experts. Unfortunately for Phoenix, adversity isn't its opponent in the conference finals. We can talk about the lack of production from top scorers Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney if you want. We can talk about missed opportunities early in Game 2 when the Coyotes showed a much better push than the previous game. We can talk about officiating, too, but that is a lament for losers. The plain truth one we suspected after Game 1 is that the Coyotes are facing a superior team with answers for every wrinkle coach Dave Tippett crafts. The L.A. Kings may be the best the NHL has to offer this season. Tippett juggled three of his four lines on Tuesday in an attempt to provide an offensive spark. He stuck speedster Mikkel Boedker on his checking line in an attempt to slow L.A.'s red-hot top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. He even inserted rookie defenseman Michael Stone into the lineup to replace a gimpy David Schlemko. It didn't matter. L.A. weathered Phoenix's early pressure and just kept coming with that relentless, fast and heavy forecheck. Dwight King deflected Drew Doughty's point shot past goalie Mike Smith late in the first period for a 1-0 lead. Jeff Carter buried a feed from Dustin Penner early in the second period for a 2-0 lead. And as the opportunities dwindled and the Kings kept pounding away, the Coyotes finally lost their composure, just as the St. Louis Blues had done one round earlier against the Kings. Captain Shane Doan boarded Trevor Lewis, drawing a five-minute major, a game misconduct and perhaps a suspension. Smith slashed Kings captain Dustin Brown in the back of the legs and Martin Hanzal boarded him to go the way of Doan. When the final stats were in, Phoenix had racked up 56 penalty minutes and some ill will from the national audience for its less than gracious display. "Frustration sets in," goalie Mike Smith said. "It's just discipline from myself on out. You've got to be disciplined." Just like that, the most anticipated series in franchise history is circling the drain, heading back to Los Angeles where the Kings can close it out. You can take solace in the fact that Phoenix has been a good road team all season. But the Coyotes could be playing without two of their best players if Doan and Hanzal are suspended. Even when they've had them, they've been no match for the Kings. "You have to give them credit in how they're playing," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "But I certainly think that we can show better than we are right now."
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