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Coyotes improbable run continues with first conference final after taking down Preds

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com
Boedker celebrates a goal in Game 5. (Getty Images)

One of the best underdog stories I remember seeing in hockey will continue. The Phoenix Coyotes are on to unchartered territory after beating the Nashville Predators 2-1 in Game 5 and finishing off the Predators to reach the first conference final in franchise history.

That's right, not even the Jets 1.0 ever lasted this long in the playoffs. So this really is something we've never seen before.

But it's great. Forget Dodgeball, this is a true underdog story.

The Coyotes weren't given much chance of even competing in the Pacific Division this season. They won it. They have been losing money faster than the U.S. treasury and living on a shoe-string budget. A good chunk of the season has been spent speculating on where they will call home after this season. They have been mocked for the lack of fan support.

Yet none of that matters now. The Coyotes are pulling off one of the more improbable stories the NHL has seen in years.

Is that hyperbole? I really don't think so. The Coyotes are the No. 3 seed in the West and have home-ice advantage. But I still sit here and feel like Phoenix being in the final four is more surprising than the eighth-seeded Kings, who became the first team to ever dispatch the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the same postseason.

Of course we'd be remiss if we failed to mention Mike Smith, who was once again outstanding in Game 5. The Predators finally scored with 5:59 remaining in the third period. That ended a streak more than 162 minutes of shutout hockey from Smith, who at this moment in time has to be considered the Conn Smythe favorite. There's still two rounds to go so that's a long ways off yet, but he's been simply stellar.

He almost made it end in the most fitting way possible with a goal. His attempt on the empty net in the final seconds missed just inches wide, but it didn't matter. That would have just been icing on a very sweet cake.

It's all been improbable, every aspect of it. The Central Division was one of the best divisions we've ever seen in NHL history. But now we have two teams from the Pacific Division still standing. A hockey team in the desert will be on the national spotlight, unable to be ignored any more. Or mocked after defying the odds and oddsmakers again.

Hey, I got one of my postseason picks right. I did have this series over after five games. I'll just do my best to forget which team I had winning that fifth game.

Now we get to enjoy the defensive-minded hockey and quality goaltending that a Smith and Jonathan Quick series is sure to produce. I know the Kings are ready.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 
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