Fans tend to hold onto the past like painful memories in their family history. Ask any Cubs fan and he or she can recite the events of 1969, 1984, 1989 and 2003 in depressing detail.
Media tend to hold onto the past because it makes for good storylines. Late Saturday night, reporters were noting all the eerie similarities between this Coyotes-Blackhawks series and the Coyotes first-round series against the St. Louis Blues 13 years earlier.
The Coyotes also led that series 3-1 before dropping the final three games. In that series, Phoenix played without center Jeremy Roenick (broken jaw) for all but one game. In this series, center Martin Hanzal has played a little more than one game due to a lower body injury.
In that series, a Blues defenseman scored a third-period goal to tie the score at 1-1 and force overtime in Game 5, which St. Louis won 2-1. On Saturday, Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy did the same thing before captain Jonathan Toews won it in overtime.
And yes, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was the coach of those Blues.
But does the past really matter to the players?
Not at all, said Sabres assistant coach Teppo Numminen, who was a member of that 1999 Coyotes team and many others. Its a different generation, different players and a whole different setup. That past has nothing to do with this team.
The Coyotes do have some recent playoff history. They fell in seven games to the Detroit Red Wings just two seasons ago, when they had Game 7 on their home ice, and they got swept last season by those same Wings.
But the Coyotes never really had control of that 2010 series.
There were times where it felt like we were just overwhelmed, general manager Don Maloney said, where we were just hanging on.
The only guy still around from that 1999 collapse and the 1997 seven-game loss to Anaheim, a series in which Phoenix also had a 3-2 series lead, is captain Shane Doan. We have no idea what demons may haunt Doan from those seasons. Even if they exist, youre not going to hear the captain of a hockey team dwelling on such things -- especially with his team in position to close out a series. But Doan did admit that he cant escape that past.
I don't think it's a big deal to most of the guys, he said Sunday in Chicago. The only guy feeling it most would probably be me. Obviously, I'd like to get out of the first round."
He may be right that his teammates are immune to the franchises past, but one look at the Cubs makes you wonder if a franchises playoff history can play a role in its psychological makeup.
Quenneville certainly believes thats the case for this Hawks group. Although Chicago jettisoned more than 40 percent of its roster after it won the Stanley Cup in 2010, many of the key players are still on the team, including Toews, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa (injured), Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Cup finals in Philadelphia.
Chicago also has the experience of last season, when the Hawks rallied from a 3-0 series deficit in the opening round against eventual Western Conference champ Vancouver before falling in overtime in Game 7.
One thing about our group: Theyre competitive and they never say die, Quenneville said. We havent played our best yet. Theres another level that weve got to get, and when we get there, its going to feel great and taste great.
Maybe thats the secret to the past. Maybe it's only acknowledged by teams when it's helpful. Otherwise, its a bad omen to bring it up, a superstition that must be heeded unless media types drag it out of you.
After all, it does nobody any good to acknowledge that Toews, who scored the OT winner in Game 5, has 13 letters in his name, just like Pierre Turgeon, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of that Coyotes-Blues series 13 years ago.
Oh, man, Numminen said, laughing. Call me after the Coyotes win. That will be much more fun to talk about.