The last time the franchise won a playoff series Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, Billy Vera and the Beaters topped the music charts and Shane Doan was 10 years old.
But the jokes are finished now: The Phoenix Coyotes have finally broken the curse. And to a man, they feel like they have much better hockey in them ? well except for goalie Mike Smith. Smith capped an incredible one-man show in which he stopped 229 of 241 shots with a 39-saves masterpiece and shut out as the Coyotes finished off the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 to finally reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was the first playoff series win in eight tries for the Phoenix Coyotes and snapped a string of 13 consecutive lost series for the Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise dating back 25 years -- when the 1987 Jets beat the Calgary Flames in the first round with Dale Hawerchuk and Thomas Steen leading the way. But while their names hang in the rafters of Jobing.com Arena, their ghosts have officially been exorcised.
The Coyotes had four shots midway through the second period and Smith was constantly under siege, but the Coyotes used power-play goals Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Antoine Vermette and two more from fourth-liners Gilbert Brule and Kyle Chipchura to send Blackhawks home bewildered.
"We kind of threw a 'Rope-a-Dope' at them like Muhammad Ali a little bit, but they were a great team and it was a fun series," said Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, who assisted on Ekman-Larsson's in the second period. "We battled the whole time and to beat those guys is a huge accomplishment for us."
The Coyotes will get a few days off and they need it. Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski and Mikkel Boedker played with injuries and defensemen Rostislav Klesla and Michal Rozsival were injured during the game. Everyone should be ready for the Western Conference Semifinals -- where the Coyotes have home ice against the Nashville Predators.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett was pleased with the win, if not the execution of his team -- and knew it meant even more to his 35-year-old captain and long-suffering Coyotes fans.
"You listen to Shane Doan talk about how much this meant to him, to push this thing along," Tippett said. "You just recognize all the work, that not just players but organizational people have put in to try and make this thing go down there, and it was very gratifying.
"It's about moving on now. It's an accomplishment that will touch a lot of guys dearly, just because they're getting the first round out of the way. But I guarantee you there is nobody in there satisfied."
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