Commentary

Yotes want to be more than 'nice story'

Updated: April 27, 2010, 7:12 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With one victory Tuesday night, the Phoenix Coyotes have the chance to shed their Cinderella shoes and step into the big boys' club.

A Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, hockey's model franchise for the past two decades, would propel the Coyotes into a realm of respectability they deeply yearn for.

"We don't just want to be, 'Oh, this is a nice story,'" Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Monday. "We want to be a good team and a good team for a long time, and situations like this can push you ahead."

A win over the fabled Red Wings on Tuesday night would once and for all convince the remaining skeptics that this season wasn't a fluke, that this team is legit with no asterisks.

Seven months ago, the Coyotes arrived at training camp with no coach and no owner and wondered whether they should put their homes up for sale. It was ugly. Can you imagine if someone had told them that day in September that they'd be playing a Game 7 -- at home, no less -- against the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs seven months later?

Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle was posed that very question Monday, and although his preamble underlined the team's confidence in itself from the beginning, he finally succumbed when he realized this reporter wasn't buying it. Seriously, seven months ago, could you have believed this?

"I think it would have been a little far-fetched," Yandle finally conceded.

Ah, yeah, especially with captain and star winger Shane Doan missing three-plus games in this first-round series (he'll be a game-time decision Tuesday night). One can't overlook that the Coyotes have stretched this series to seven games without Doan. He is their leader and one of their top offensive weapons on a team without many offensive weapons.

Yet there were the plucky Coyotes, with their work boots and hard hats, going into Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon and pounding the Red Wings 5-2 before a disbelieving audience in Hockeytown.

"I have the utmost confidence in our locker room," Tippett said. "I said it before Game 6; I love the spirit of our guys and how loose they were going into that game with their backs against the wall. The veteran players in there, a lot of them have been through it before, but you look at the identity of our team: It's the ability to overcome situations and not get rattled over anything that is one of our strengths. Coming into a Game 7, I don't see why it would be any different tomorrow."

What's been interesting to watch is the Coyotes' utter lack of intimidation toward their venerable opposition, and there was no better example than Sunday in Detroit. We're talking about a Detroit team that is the modern-day equivalent of a dynasty. The names on the back of the jerseys scream winning: Lidstrom, Rafalski, Zetterberg, Datsyuk.

"Don't care," the Coyotes seem to have said.

"You can't get intimidated," said Yandle, who was 10 years old when Nicklas Lidstrom guided the Wings to the first of his four Cup titles with the club in 1997. "If you do look at all their stats, we know they have one heck of a team and they got the Cup rings and all the accolades that go with it. We all know that. But once we get on the ice, we don't think about that."

Once they get on the ice Tuesday night at Jobing.com Arena, it'll be pandemonium with a sellout crowd watching the greatest spectacle in playoff hockey: Game 7. What better way to keep these fans hooked?

"The building will be electric, the players will have maximum intensity; it'll just be a great atmosphere to sell our game here," Tippett said. "Game 7 just makes our sport look so good in the fans' eyes. I know the players are looking forward to it, and I'm looking forward to it. It'll be a great atmosphere."

The Coyotes believe they have a destiny this season. Tuesday night isn't the end in their eyes but rather a special moment en route to the ultimate goal.

"We believe in each other; we're a confident group," Coyotes blueliner Derek Morris said. "We have a special group of guys in here that really care about each other and want to go a long way."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.