See, the Phoenix Coyotes, as great a story as they've been, weren't given much of a chance by most to beat Detroit in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Red Wings have been the hottest team in the league going into the playoffs, have the market cornered on playoff experience, and are as well-coached as any team in sports.
Despite these not-so-great odds, the Coyotes were the home team for Game 1 Wednesday night. That they skated away with a 3-2 win probably won't change the "Night of Upsets" mantra you're going to hear in the aftermath of the playoffs' first night.
After all, Detroit is a chic pick to win the West, while Phoenix is supposed to just be a speedbump for the mighty Red Wings
For a team that hadn't made the playoffs since 2002, and one who had over 1,000 fewer games of playoff experience than their opponent, the start for Phoenix was exactly what you'd expect.
The Coyotes looked a bit nervous, and outside of their hitting game, which was on all night, they didn't do much. Defensive zone work was lacking, as guys were running around and giving Detroit players way too much time and space. It's not the Coyotes' game, and they slowly began to settle in as the game wore on.
Outshot 20-7 in the first period, Phoenix recovered and took the play to Detroit for much of the game's final 30 minutes.
While Detroit's coaching staff will surely lament a missed high-stick on defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom in the third period, the Red Wings had the majority of the game's power play chances (six to the Coyotes' four). Despite that, they were soundly beaten in the special teams game.
Phoenix scored three times in their four power plays, with two of them coming from defensemen. The Coyotes have leaned on their point men all year, so it was no surprise that they came through again. That Keith Yandle and Derek Morris contributed power-play goals, though, was a bit strange.
It was expected that Detroit would roll on special teams, especially with their penalty kill, which showed improvement all year. The Phoenix power play was virtually useless all season, hitting at under 15 percent.
Once the Coyotes tied the game in the second on a Wojtek Wolski power-play goal, they began to assert themselves. They outhit Detroit 43-20 for the game, so it wasn't a shock that they were hitting. What changed was their play with and without the puck. They had better positioning on defense, relying more on their system than any kind of puck-chasing like they had been in the first period.
The Coyotes were able to largely avoid penalties in the third period because they were moving their feet and more rarely caught in bad positions. Suddenly, they not only looked like they belonged, but they looked like they could beat this Detroit team, no matter how great the Red Wings have been in recent years.
No doubt this between-games time will be spent by the Detroit coaches going over special teams issues. Clean that up, and there's no reason to think the Wings can't be victorious in this series. They were the better team for most of the game's first half, if not longer than that, and they allowed the game to turn on special teams.