A Downer in the Desert
What the Coyotes can say, however, is that their dream of a surprise spring in the desert was ended by the Detroit Red Wings - still the classiest team in this National Hockey League.
The Wings, arguably, are not quite the team they've been in recent years, and they certainly had to fight and scrap just to find their way into post-season play.
But after being hammered in Game 6 at home, the Wings responded with a remarkable combination of skill and pure fury, pounding the Coyotes 6-1 in Game 7 to move on and face the San Jose Sharks.
And won't that be an interesting series.
The Red Wings, when they're going, still play a different game than most NHL clubs, or a least a game that most teams can only dream of playing. They do it with speed and passing and discipline, and they delivered all three last night in the clinching game to such a degree that even Todd Bertuzzi, long a glowering, goonish presence in the league, looks composed and focused.
Had Jimmy Howard not muffed a faceoff shot that shouldn't go in on an NHL goalie, it would have been just about a perfect performance from Detroit, one in which their stalwarts - Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and ageless Nik Lidstrom - played leading roles.
That's one thing you never have to wonder about the Wings, whether their best players will be their best players. They always are in the big games, and we'll find out Wednesday night whether the more youthful and less playoff hardened Washington Capitals can get that kind of mileage out of Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green.
In the early going of Game 7, Ilya Bryzgalov looked just as impregnable in the Phoenix net as Jaroslav Halak has been for Montreal in the last two games. But while the Caps got frustrated and made mistakes, the Wings didn't lose focus, trusting in their ability to eventually get pucks past the Russian.
The Coyotes, it should be noted, have still never won a series while in Phoenix, and their future under the new ownership of Jerry Reinsdorf is anything but crystal clear. Still, the fans showed up for this post-season, which is at least firm evidence that some kind of fan base exists.
They never had the skill to compete with Detroit, but the difference in Game 7 was that the Wings seemed to want it so much more, or at least understood how best to channel their desires into effort and smart play.
So now, in the Western Conference, it's the Sharks and the Wings in one series, with the Hawks and Canucks in the other. With apologies to the Coyotes and their terrific season, that means the four best in the west are still alive.
In the east, with the second and third seeds already gone, and depending on what happens tonight in D.C., it may be a very different landscape.