GLENDALE – One reason the Coyotes have reached the Western Conference Finals is that every player has chipped in during the first 11 games, including playoff rookies Gilbert Brule, Kyle Chipchura and Marc-Antoine Pouliot.
Brule, who has appeared in 10 playoff games and has notched a pair of goals and an assist while averaging 8:04 of ice time, says he entered his first career NHL postseason appearance knowing how important he and his linemate’s contributions would be to the team as a whole.
“For any team to have success in the playoffs, especially with all the line matching and things that go on with the top lines, I think the third- and fourth-line guys really have to chip in and amp up their game,” Brule said. “It’s just not us, but everyone has to play that high-level game. But if we can chip in, in any way possible with a hit, a good play, get the puck deep, it helps everyone.”
Chipchura, who has scored a goal and two assists while averaging 8:40 of ice time in 10 playoff games, said the team’s regular season philosophy of grinding out victories and getting contributions up and down the lineup has only helped the team be better prepared for the playoffs.
“We’re a team that’s based around everybody chipping in, everybody contributing,” Chipchura said. “We have our top guys who create a lot of scoring chances, but then we’ve got to have that cohesive unit that’s hard to play against, and plays with energy, and all that kind of stuff that goes along with winning hockey.”
As the playoffs go deeper into the spring, the challenge for some of these players who sometimes fly under the radar is to continue to elevate their games as the intensity elevates.
“You could feel it from the regular season to round one, for sure,” Chipchura said. “Now it’s definitely amped up a little bit, but I feel like maybe the experience and leadership kind of come through a little bit more now, too.”
And for Pouliot, the excitement and intensity of every new game, along with the contributions he has made, is what has made his first postseason experience a memorable one.
“I wouldn’t say that I get used to it,” said Pouliot, who has notched an assist in five games while averaging 8:29 of ice time. “I get more comfortable, I get more confident. Every game means so much, so the motivation and all that come naturally, and that’s why it’s so much fun.”
Pouliot added that just because he’s had a taste of the postseason and has made contributions doesn’t mean that he’s done chipping in.
“I’m just trying to find a way to help the team, no matter what I can do,” Pouliot said. “I’m not playing the biggest minutes, but every time I’m on the ice I’m trying to make a difference.”