All of the pundits are rushing to write-off the Phoenix Coyotes in their series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Starting the season with as under the ownership of the NHL, without any real star power and having made few changes from last year, no one expected to Coyotes to even make the post season.
A new coach with a strong system that didn't rely on star players to provide offense turned the Coyotes around. From the very beginning of the season, the Coyotes competed with the best of the NHL and about half way through the season started to earn a little respect from fans and the media.
Now the playoffs are here and all of that has gone out the window. Their Stanley Cup odds are among the poorest in the NHL and they are not even favored against their first round opponent despite having the fourth best record in the NHL.
The reward for playing a consistent team-first brand of hockey in the Phoenix Coyotes' Stanley Cup debut is a date with the hottest team in the NHL, finalists in the last two years, the most experienced playoff team in the NHL...
Before you start calculating possible second-round opponents, there are some games to be played and the Coyotes just might win four of them.
Detroit is the hottest team in the NHL.
And Phoenix is the second hottest in the NHL. Detroit went 16-3-2 to close out the season while Phoenix went 13-4-2.
Phoenix had a nine-game winning streak in that span when games still mattered for them and then went 1-3-1 right about when the games ceased to matter.
Phoenix got all of their wins in the shootout.
Yes, the Coyotes led the league in shootout victories with 14 and those won't count in the playoffs.
You know what else won't count?
Detroit's 14 overtime losses.
The Coyotes won't be rewarded for their ability to win under pressure in a skills competition just as the Red Wings won't be rewarded for their ability to keep it close enough to get rewarded by failure.
Phoenix will lose because of special teams.
Both teams have excellent penalty killing, but the Wings have the ninth best power-play while the Coyotes have the 28th best power-play.
You know what? Special teams aren't going to matter much in this one.
Neither team takes many penalties. Detroit averages 8.7 penalty minutes per game while the Coyotes average 11.3 penalty minutes, but that doesn't account for Phoenix taking significantly more fighting majors.
Detroit doesn't fight, so Phoenix will leave the goons on the bench where they won't hurt the team.
Detroit is just too experienced.
Detroit's aging veterans like Nicklas Lidstrom (39), Kris Draper (38) and Todd Bertuzzi (35) still contribute to the team, but they are slowing down. With all of the hockey that they've played in the last two years (okay, not Bert), don't be surprised if they can't elevate their games come playoff time.
If you're a Detroit fan, you should be breathing a sigh of relief that Phoenix isn't a bruising team. But the slow decline of Detroit's back-line exposes them to more punishment than they should be used to.
The Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup Playoffs chances look very promising. But the Phoenix Coyotes have deserve more respect than they are getting.