In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Phoenix Coyotes season end

I'm sure I wasn't the only one feeling the heartache last night, as the Phoenix Coyotes fell in crushing defeat to the Detroit Red Wings. After their stunning win in Game 6, it seemed all the more likely that the desert dogs might just have a chance at beating the Wings in this series.

But inevitably, the Yotes were no match against a playoff-perennial like Detroit, who brought everything including the kitchen sink to Phoenix for a landslide 6-1 win. Key Red Wingers like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Lidstrom showed just why they are considered the best in the league.

Aside from Yotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who started the game off with some awesome saves, yours truly noted that the playoff-green Yotes looked tired and disjointed. Bryz couldn't keep up the acrobatics for a full 60 minutes without a team in front of him. Sitting out his fourth game since a shoulder dislocation, captain Shane Doan also had to watch his team crumble before him.

It was indeed a disappointing end to a fabulous Coyote season, but yours truly would like to remind the Phoenix Coyotes and their fans that they have every reason to be proud of what they managed to accomplish over the past seven months. Amidst ownership turmoil, coach resignations, and every hockey analyst pegging them for last place in 2009-10 season predictions, the Yotes were the Cinderella team.

I remember road-tripping to the opening season game, only to see the team get shutout by the Columbus Blue Jackets (who didn't make the playoffs). I couldn't even buy a Matthew Lombardi t-shirt at the team store because doubts about the team's residence in Phoenix kept merchandise orders on hold.

The small, diehard fanbase grew over a season which saw the Yotes take the Hockey Nation by storm. Suddenly, under new coach Dave Tippett (officially nominated this morning for the Jack Adams award), this team of no-name NHLers was winning games and breaking franchise records.

They burst into the playoffs, clinching a seed behind perennial Pacific Division clinchers, the San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately, the first round would pit them against a Red Wing team fueled by a last-minute push for post-season contention. Again, the naysayers would vote the Yotes out by the fifth or sixth game, claiming Detroit would annihilate them.

But the gritty series would bring out the best in both teams, and arguably the best playoff hockey in Round One. The Yotes forced the Wings all the way to a Game 7, and in so doing, earned respect by fans and players all over the league. As I watched the final handshake (one of my favorite things about hockey), heard the remaining Phoenix fans chant "Let's go, Co-yotes!" (they didn't empty the seats like Detroit had in Game 6), and watched the team salute the crowd in return, I wanted to tell them how proud I was... and how much I appreciated the ride.

Yours truly believes the effects of the 2009-2010 season will ring positive for small-market hockey for years to come. Hopefully, the ownership squabbles will end, the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix, and I'll have many more roadtrip games to look forward to!

Hats off to you, Coyotes!


My Zimbio
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