Coyotes post-season, future come into focus

This past weekend was one the Phoenix Coyotes and their fans won’t soon forget.

History was made Saturday night in Minnesota as the Coyotes claimed their first division title in franchise history, clinching the Pacific with a 4-1 win over the Wild. It gave Dave Tippett’s team 97 points, securing the third-seed in the playoffs and a matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Whiteout is back for the third straight year.

“Going in strong to the playoffs and winning a division title,” Coyotes President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Nealy told Brad Cesmat Monday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “I’m so happy for the team and the organization. Things are looking pretty good here.”

The ‘Yotes have leaned on a resilient, focused, team-oriented dressing room and the play of goaltender Mike Smith who’s allowed just two goals in the last five games. In three games against the Blackhawks, only four shots reached the net against the NHL’s hottest goalie.

In all the excitement around the series, one dark cloud still looms over Glendale with the uncertainly of the franchise moving forward either here, or elsewhere. The Coyotes are currently owned and operated by the NHL and no promises have been made for the team to play in the Valley beyond this post-season.

Nealy doesn’t seem too concerned.

“The league is on record,” Nealy explained to Cesmat. “They want this team to stay here. I feel good we’re going to get a deal done. I know it’s tough because a lot of this is behind-the-scenes. We don’t have an owner…the guys out there trying to get this team are taking care of business and gonna get it done. I feel good this team is going to be here long-haul.”

Phoenix won three out of four games against Chicago this season.

The Coyotes have home ice advantage in the best-of-seven series with Game 1, Thursday night at Arena. The puck drops at 7:00.

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.