GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Coyotes rise from a team with ownership problems and an uncertain future in the desert to a successful on-ice operation began when Dave Tippett replaced Wayne Gretzky as head coach three years ago.
Tippett has exhibited throughout his coaching NHL coaching career, whether with the Dallas Stars or in Phoenix, that he can squeeze plenty of juice out of teams lacking in star power. That Midas touch will be needed once again if the Coyotes bounce back after their miserable 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the West final opener with a strong Game 2 on Tuesday.
Tippett and his players spent most of Monday talking about ratcheting up their compete level and improving their execution against the Kings, who have now won six consecutive road games, one shy of the Stanley Cup playoff record.
The Kings directed 90 shots at Phoenix goalie Mike Smith on Sunday. Forty-eight were on net, 17 were high, wide or deflected and the Coyotes blocked another 25. Phoenix has allowed a league-high 37.3 shots per game in the playoffs. A big part of that high total has to do with the Coyotes playing in six playoff games, but they need to cut down on the Kings chances.
"I went through every single shot, every attempt last night," Tippet said. "I would question some of the numbers, some of the attempts at the net, but I'm not going to second guess the stats guys, that's not what I want to do.
"I look at the quality we gave up. We gave up far more quality opportunities. Quantity, I can deal with sometimes, but we gave up far too many quality chances."
Plenty has been made in Tippett's rise through the coaching ranks and how important his connection to the Canadian national team program has been. He played for Dave King in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics and King continues to be his mentor with the Coyotes as the team's developmental coach. Sean Burke, who tended goal on the 1992 Canadian Olympic team, also has made his mark as the team's goalie coach.
Burke has transformed Smith into a top-five goalie. But wherever Tippett has gone, goalies have enjoyed career seasons, whether it was Marty Turco in Dallas - Smith was pretty good there, too - and Ilya Bryzgalov and Smith with the Coyotes.
"You always know where you stand with Tip," Smith said. "He expects a lot out of each and everyone of us, and as a player you appreciate his honesty."
Coyotes assistant coach John Anderson believes goalies play well for Tippett because he's not hasty in giving them the hook after a slow start.
"It's about showing confidence in a goalie by how you play them more than anything," Anderson said. "That's what Tip does. If we get down a couple goals, he doesn't have a quick trigger. Other coaches will pull a guy if that happens. Dave lets the goalies fight through it, and that puts the onus on the rest of the team to help out the goalie because we all know [Smith] has helped out the team on many occasions."
Tippett is a players' coach as is Anderson. They were influenced by Jack Evans when they were teammates in the mid-to-late 1980s with the Hartford Whalers. In fact, it's incredible how many players from those teams have been head or assistant coaches in the NHL or Europe in recent seasons.
Besides Tippett and Anderson, there has been Joel Quenneville (Chicago), Kevin Dineen (Florida), Dave Barr (New Jersey), Dean Evason (Washington), Ron Francis (Carolina), Doug Jarvis (Boston), Randy Ladoceur (Montreal), Brent Peterson (Nashville), Mark Reeds (Ottawa), Ulf Samuelsson (MoDo, Sweden) and Brad Shaw (St. Louis) as well as management types like Don Maloney (Phoenix), Paul Fenton (Nashville) and Dave Babych (Vancouver).
Even Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien and Vancouver Canucks bench boss Alain Vigneault had Evans as a coach in the minors in Salt Lake City.
Anderson recalled that after a practice one day he gave an interview with a local reporter and was asked what he wanted to do following his playing days. Anderson answered that he would like to go into coaching.
"Jack never wore hockey gloves on the ice, he wore gardening gloves," Anderson said. "The next day I found a pair of gardening gloves in my stall. I think Ray Ferraro put them there.
"Jack let his players play and if you look at most of us who have gone into coaching we're players' coaches. That was his main influence on us. He wasn't into systems much."
Tippett, Anderson and 1985-86 Whalers upset the Quebec Nordiques in the first round and took the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Montreal Canadiens to overtime in Game 7 in the second round.
"We had a lot of good hockey minds on that team," Anderson said. "That was part of the reason for our success."
Tippett and Anderson hope the Coyotes can raise their hockey IQ level against Los Angeles in Game 2. Otherwise, the Kings will make quick work of Phoenix like they did in the first two rounds against the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues.
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