The Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings may have faced off in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs just a mere 12 months ago but that doesn’t matter, at least not to head coach Dave Tippett. He realizes this is a different team with another opportunity to knock off the storied franchise from the motor city.
“That was last year,” the head coach said. “We had some players that were involved in that game last year. Hopefully they take that experience and use it this year but this is a whole new team. We’ve battled for 82-games. We’ve earned the right to be a playoff team. We know our opponent well. Our mindset should be ‘let’s get going’.”
This year instead of opening the series in Glendale in front of a WhiteOut, they’ll ‘get going’ on Wednesday night in Detroit. A game that starts at 4:30 p.m. Phoenix time. Though home ice advantage may not matter seeing as both teams were better on the road this season than at home.
While Tippett made it clear that this isn’t the same team as last year, that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from having played the Wings 11 times since last April.
“You plan to play well no matter who you play against,” he said. “Detroit, we know that team well. They’ve got a great deal of experience. They’ve been a top franchise for a long time. We’ll have our hands full but our group is very excited. They’re excited about the challenge ahead of us. That’s the way we’ll go into the series.”
All business. That seemed to be the mentality the Coyotes exhibited at practice and while talking to the media. Maybe they’re a reflection of their head coach or maybe they realize that the only way to beat the Red Wings is to face the challenge head on and not be intimidated by the task at hand.
It’s something they accomplished all season against Detroit. They never lost a game in regulation in their four meetings this year losing two games in overtime, winning one in regulation and winning another in a shootout.
When you look at the four match-ups this season combined with the seven games from last year’s first round, fans can expect another interesting and competitive series. That playoff experience, and the fact that Detroit finished with just four wins in their final 11 games, may finally be enough for the Coyotes to escape the first round of the playoffs. Like coach Tippett said, they are a different team.