The 'Yotes were written off before the 2011-2012 season even began. The franchise barley escaped off season relocation, saw their franchise goalie leave to Philadelphia, had a emerging player in the midst of a holdout, and the roster was littered with players who many thought may not find places on a lot of teams fourth line.
But the Coyotes refused to be average. They refused to listen to the rumors and the doubters. Everyone bought in to coach Dave Tippett's system, and no one was bigger than the team.
Coach Tippett can't get all the credit though. Mike Smith emerged as one of the best stories of the year in the NHL. Smith, who played games in the AHL last year for the Norfolk Admirals, has proven to be a top-tier NHL goalie.
Smith was stellar all year, but his play to end of the year almost single-handedly got the team the Pacific Division crown, and then he carried that play into the postseason.
Smith stopped 229 shots in the series with the Blackhawks and was the clear MVP for the Coyotes.
No one will feel more elated after this win than captain Coyote, Shane Doan. Doan, who has been with the franchise since the year before their move to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996, has been the definition of what a NHL captain should encompass.
Even though it was not until Monday night that Doan tasted what it feels like to succeed in the NHL playoffs, the captain still knew all the right things to say.
"It's a relief, because you just want to get a chance to do something in the playoffs and make some noise," said Doan after the game. "Everyone always talks about if you get out of the first round anything can happen. Now we've got to find a way to win that next round and that's really our next goal."
Coach Tippett also knows that the series victory will go a long way in an effort to bring respect to hockey in the desert as well.
"It seems like no matter what happens, somebody's always got something derogatory to say about hockey down in Arizona," Tippett said. "It's nice to get that monkey off our backs. 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 may take a few days for the Coyotes to come down from the series win, but they do not have to stop here. Chicago had a roster that was chock full of talent, and included stars like Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa (for a little), but the Coyotes team game came out on top.
They have now proved to themselves, and teams around the league that they can win a series, so why stop now?
Like Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett proclaimed after the Celtics won the NBA Championship, "Anything is possible!"
Kevin Garnett "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE" (via AsijsLV)
How far do you think the Coyotes can go in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Conference Semifinals (5 votes)
Conference Finals (5 votes)
Get to the Stanley Cup Finals, but lose (0 votes)
Bring a Stanley Cup to the desert (9 votes)
19 total votes