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McConnell's Blog: Desert Dog Dozen for May

Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 1:02 PM / McConnell's Blog
By Matt McConnell

GLENDALE -- Coyotes Play-By-Play Announcer Matt McConnell presents his "Desert Dog Dozen" for May:

1. Have you noticed through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Coyotes have been anything but the celebratory group? Sure, they’ve taken a few minutes at the end of each series to enjoy and reflect, but the focus quickly returns to looking ahead to the next round and opponent.

2. In case you’re counting at home, make it seven consecutive post-season sellouts for this team and organization. In fact, they played at beyond 100 percent of capacity at Jobing.com Arena in each of the first two series.

Matt McConnell

3. So much has been made of the outstanding play this postseason of defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Rusty Klesla… and rightfully so. But have you stopped to take a closer look at the play of Derek Morris? Sure, he took a few penalties early in the Nashville series. But he leads the team in blocked shots heading into round three and his 1,000-plus games of experience has been obvious for Head Coach Dave Tippett. To me, he’s saved his best hockey for the post season.

4. Managing the time of the team is a 24/7 job for Tippett. Throughout the season, he’s constantly adjusting practice schedules, assigning days off and working with Team Services Manager Rick Braunstein to make sure travel runs smoothly. It seems to be paying off. Throughout the playoffs, with one exception, the team has made the decision to stay overnight during a road series that’s ready to shift back to the desert. Their efforts are paying off as the team moves deeper into the postseason.

5. Speaking of rest, How huge was it for the Coyotes to close out Nashville in five games? Obviously, they won and moved on. But to win it in five games saved them roughly 3,200 miles in travel and afforded them a few additional days of rest in the own beds.

6. The Coyotes recently brought to town Western Hockey League MVP Brendan Shinnimin and allowed him a chance to taste life in the NHL. Earlier this season, NCAA players turned pro Scott Arnold of Niagara and Mike Lee of St. Cloud State were afforded the same opportunity. You have to love the team giving its young players a glimpse of life in the bigs.

7. Is it me or does the play in the Western Conference this postseason seem quicker than that in the east? Don’t get me wrong. The caliber of play this postseason has been tremendous across the board. It just seems to me as if the games out west have been a bit quicker.

8. Two players that have elevated their games for the playoffs have been Taylor Pyatt and Mikkel Boedker. If you go back to the final regular season road trip, Pyatt dominated in games at St. Louis and Minnesota. Boedker started pulling it together as well, and then had those marvelous games against Chicago with the pair of overtime game-winning goals. Both have been solid defensively as well.

Boyd Gordon. Photo by Getty Images.

9. If I had to give out team awards for the Selke and Norris, here are the winners. I’d offer up the team Selke award to Boyd Gordon for his relentless forechecking, his disregard to his body for blocking shots and his ability to control a game’s tempo by being one of the best face-off men in the League. My team Norris Trophy would go to Klesla, in part for his perseverance. From start to finish, I think he’s been the team’s best blueliner in a group of talented players. He’s been one of the team’s best penalty killers, has developed into a shutdown defenseman, plays through pain and has shown offensive upside in the postseason. Keith Yandle and OEL would receive votes as well.

10. As the aforementioned Boedker rounds his offensive game into shape, much of the credit has to go to Coyotes assistant coach John Anderson. The two have worked frequently after practices in refining Boedker’s decisions with the puck. Anderson knows a thing or two about offense. He scored 282 goals and tallied 631 points over 12 seasons with Toronto and Hartford. In seven of those seasons, he scored 20-plus goals.

11. Depth, balance and quality goaltending win playoff games. The Coyotes have had all three in the first two rounds of the playoffs. In fact, 18 players have recorded at least a point with 17 of them having multiple points. When Chicago won the whole thing two seasons ago, they had nine players with 10-plus points. Sure, Mike Smith’s play between the pipes has been arguably the biggest story of the NHL’s postseason. But the team’s balance and depth have been extremely important to their advancement to the west final.

12. Can somebody explain to me why register receipts are so doggone long these days? Earlier this week, I ran into the supermarket and bought bananas, bread and a bag of veggies. When I checked out, the receipt was the length of a newborn! What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on?

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