By Tracey Myers in Chicago
Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle can't remember the last time Phoenix won a first-round series.
That's probably because the Phoenix Coyotes were the Winnipeg Jets. And he was barely alive.
"I was born in 1986, so that's a long time when you think about it," said Yandle about the franchise's last first-round advancement, which came in 1986-87. "We wanted to do it for each other and obviously for Shane Doan and the guys who haven't been there for a while. It's something special for us, we're going to enjoy it and have fun."
The Coyotes made some history on Monday night, besting the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0
en route to their first playoff series victory since they moved to the desert. It was a great moment for the franchise, which has dealt with everything from bad records to low attendance to threats that they're going to get moved every season.
So you'll excuse them if they enjoy this for a little bit. It's been a while, especially for the guys who have been through the drought in both locations.
"You know what, it's one of those things, when you get to play in the playoffs you always assume you'll get to the next round. You just assume that's going to happen," Phoenix captain Shane Doan told Fox Sports Arizona. "You start to recognize that don't get to always just get to the next one. It's the first time we've done it in a long, long, long time, so it feels good."
And it's the first time that Mike Smith has done it as a starting goaltender. Smith didn't have a long playoff wait like Doan, but he did have some tumultuous seasons before he got to Phoenix this season. And Smith was certainly the best player of this series, topping it off with a 39-stop shutout in Game 6.
"It's indescribable, really. It's such an achievement for our team and the franchise," Smith told Fox Sports Arizona. "It shows how (much) hard work it is. We were resilient all series long. We didn't play our best hockey, but we did in the third period. We deserved to win one."
And the Coyotes did it in tremendous fashion. After a series worth of late-regulation goals, slim decisions and overtimes, Phoenix blew this one wide open. And they can thank Smith for keeping the Blackhawks' vaulted scorers from doing any damage on the other side.
So the Coyotes will enjoy this, albeit briefly. Now that they're through, they have more work to do. They'll face a Nashville team that's very similar to them in defensive stifling and strong goaltending.
The tight, one-goal games will be prevalent again. But for the first time in a long time, Phoenix will be in the second round.
"I think it's good to get a monkey off your back," coach Dave Tippett said. "It seems like no matter what happens, somebody's always got something derogatory to say about hockey down in Arizona. You listen to Shane Doan talk about how much this meant to him, to push this thing along. 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 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 who is satisfied."Tracey Myers reports for CSN Chicago. Follow her @TramyersCSN
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