Props to RoscoeG for giving me the idea to write this fanpost. It was a brutal ending to the season for sure: the guys are definitely upset, our media/broadcasters are upset, and certainly we all are upset. For the season to end so abruptly and with the controversy, it's going to be a painful offseason to think about what could have been.
I woke up this morning and I discovered I wasn't really upset. As heartbreaking as getting knocked out of the playoffs is, I think about all of the other incredible things that this team accomplished this year, and I realize that this was an awesome year to be a Coyotes fan. So many incredible moments happened throughout the year, and I wanted to share a couple of my favorites. I'd love to hear what everyone else has to say too: I imagine we're going to agree on a lot of these, but maybe for different reasons. So here were the highlights of the 2011-12 Phoenix Coyotes season for me (in order of my personal favorites)
1) Game 5 against Nashville. This was the moment I felt like everything had come together. Every radio station I tuned into on the way to the game was talking about the Coyotes, Greg Jamison and Gary Bettman were giving the press conference together, and the Coyotes put away the Preds in the way they do best: gut-wrenching, grind it out, low scoring hockey. To see the Whiteout in full force without a whole lot of out-of-towners was magnificent.
2) Shane Doan's Hat trick. I can't remember how many of Doaner's two goal games I had been to or seen, and that third period seemed to be falling into the pattern perfectly (a lot of really close chances, but he just couldn't find twine). I remember the last 10 seconds in our end, thinking that it was going to be yet another tantalizingly close game for Doan, and then Whitney led him up the ice. That was the loudest crowd reaction in the regular season I'd ever heard, and the look of relief on Doan's face was just perfect.
3) Game 6 against Chicago. Another perfect example of "Hockey the Hard Way". Chicago had all the momentum, dominated the offensive zone, outshot us 28-8 after two periods...and were losing 1-0. Going into that intermission, I knew this was going to be the moment Phoenix finally broke its curse, and they did.
4) The last week of the regular season. I didn't think we had a shot at winning the division. Mike Smith almost single-handedly proved me wrong. The obscene saves he made against San Jose, Anaheim, and Columbus (which included my personal favorite, the cartwheel), and the shut-down hockey the guys played against St. Louis and Minnesota to win the division outright was so great to watch. Meeting the team at the airport at midnight with hundreds of other Coyotes fans was just icing on the cake.
5) The penalty shot vs. Florida. I don't know why I love this moment so much, but watching that puck stop on the goal line after it slipped through LaBarbera's pads was a sign that this team was fated for greater things.
There were so many great moments beyond these five. Thanks again to the Phoenix Coyotes for providing one of the most memorable seasons any hockey team has ever had.