GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After the Phoenix Coyotes had dropped their third consecutive playoff game, 19-year NHL veteran Ray Whitney gave a nod in the direction of the Detroit Red Wings.
"There was a lot of talk about how Detroit wasn't playing as well defensively, this season in general," the Coyotes' Whitney said. "I beg to differ."
Safe to say the Winged Wheelers are up on the radar these days with their dominant start to the post-season.
After three years in a row of making at least the conference final (lost conference final, won Stanley Cup, lost Cup final), last season's second-round playoff loss was so un-Wheely.
"We're not giving up as many scoring chances as we did last year," perennial Norris Trophy candidate Nicklas Lidstrom of the Wings said before Game 4 of the Western Conference series against Phoenix. "We didn't play as well defensively during the regular season. But we've tightened things up now in the playoffs."
And they have begun to erase the memory of a team that ranked 23rd in goals against going into the Stanley Cup chase.
"You need to be that this time of year," Detroit forward Kris Draper said. "There are no excuses for what went on during the regular season. We definitely weren't as good in our own end as we should have been. Right now we're a focused team, we're playing desperate hockey and we're doing a lot of good things in the neutral zone."
With star winger Henrik Zetterberg set to return from injury any day, the Wings can stack their lineup against anyone's.
It seems the offensively challenged Coyotes have been the perfect Motown appetizer, with a challenging Western Conference main course still to come.