2010 NHL Playoffs: Red Wings-Coyotes Series Could End a Cinderella Story

Matt HutterAnalyst IApril 24, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 23:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings is congratulated by teammates Tomas Holmstrom #96 and Brian Rafalski #28 after Datsyuk scored a third period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 23, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 4-1 to take a 3-2 series lead.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cinderella Team.

What would the NHL playoffs be without them?

Whether it's your team or not, as a hockey fan, you've got to give a lot of respect to those teams that can, despite a mountain of odds, prove the doubters wrong, muster enough resolve that they then turn into confidence and, suddenly, become a legitimate threat to any team they face.

As Philadelphia, a team that has suffered from broken goalies, busted-out coaches and disjointed play for most of the regular season, has emerged as the first team in the league to punch their ticket to the second-round, you've got to say they're wearing the glass slipper in the East.

However, like it or not, Detroit fans have had the pleasure of watching what has turned out to be the Cinderella of the West.

I say "like it or not" because, honestly, Red Wings fans aren't used to seeing their team ride around in a pumpkin.

Oh I know, most people are considering the Coyotes as the underdogs, the team that beat all-odds to get where they are.

But, if you subscribe to this view, it only makes sense relative to assumptions made during last summer.

Really, after the season started, the Coyotes proved all year long that they were one of the best teams in the NHL.

Detroit is a different story.

As late as February, they seemed poised to end their 18-year run of playoff appearances, as nothing short of a magical finish to the season would get them into the playoffs.

Fairy Godmother or no, they somehow came out of the Olympic Break transformed from lackluster has-beens to the dominating world-beaters every fan hoped was still inside them and finished the season 16-3-2.

The Coyotes on the other hand never once fell out of the playoff picture throughout the regular season and finished second only to San Jose in the Pacific Division, thus securing the final spot granting home-ice advantage.

Aside from being outstanding all year, the Coyotes also finished on a tear, with a record bested only by their fifth-seed opponent, the Detroit Red Wings.

Although the Coyotes were the higher seed, they were largely considered underdogs in this match-up, based in part on Detroit's long history of winning and their tremendous finish to the regular season.

But really, this was a bit unfair to Phoenix.

For despite the expectations of them over the summer, none of which were positive, they have earned the right to be considered the better team after 82 games.

They have young talent, veteran leadership, and Vezina-nominated goal-tending, not exactly the hallmarks of a traditional underdog.

Detroit, on the other hand, has pinned their hopes for success on aging forwards, a more rapidly aging defense, and a totally unproven goalie between the pipes.

Think about it.

Compare the first description to the second and tell me you wouldn't prefer your team to be the former going into a playoff series.

Despite all of their advantages, home-ice and otherwise, the higher-seeded Coyotes now find themselves on the brink of elimination at the hands of a team many had written off just two months ago.

Like the Wings of the past, the 'Yotes are discovering that even outplaying their opponent doesn't guarantee a win (Phoenix was the better team in Game Five).

Even more vexing, the Coyotes are now facing a young and hungry goalie who seems to have settled into his groove (having pitched a shutout in Game Four and stealing a win in Game Five, Jimmy Howard is now, officially, "the difference" in this series).

The Wings know how frustrating, and ultimately, defeatist this task can be.

As the Ducks, Flames, and Oilers have done to them in playoffs past, the Red Wings are set to orchestrate an upset.

And thus, the Wings appear to be flipping the script on the Coyotes, for though the former is the true Cinderella team, it's the latter that is about to see the clock strike 12.