GLENDALE – The Coyotes reached new heights in 2011-12, and clinching their first Pacific Division title on the last day of the regular season and then making a month-long playoff run to the Western Conference Final clearly were the well-documented highlights of the season.
What follows are five other moments I will never forget:
No. 5: Defenseman Derek Morris was a key component to the team’s success, and on March 29 he played in his 1,000th NHL game..
Morris scored two goals during the regular season and two more in the playoffs, including one from center ice in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals vs. LA.
It was a jaw-dropping goal, for sure, and it's one that won’t soon be forgotten – by fans of either team and, I'm guessing, by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
• Watch: Morris' goal from center ice
• Watch: Morris' 1,000th NHL game ceremony
No. 4: Forward Ray Whitney led the Coyotes with 77 points. On many nights he used his crafty play-making skills to be the best player on the ice.
On March 31, Whitney set up linemate Radim Vrbata for a power-play goal against Anaheim. The assist was the 1,000th point of his NHL career and it enabled Whitney to join an exclusive club; only 79 NHL players have reached the 1,000-point milestone.
• Watch: Whitney's 1,000th NHL point
• Watch: Whitney Q & A
• Watch: Congrats to Whitney
No. 3: Goalie Mike Smith made more than 2,500 saves in his first season with the Coyotes and for that he was voted the team’s MVP by his peers.
I’ll never forget Smith robbing Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk in a shootout and James Wisniewski of Columbus in traffic with acrobatic, highlight-worthy glove saves.
But, without question, the Smith save that stands out among all others came vs. Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers on Jan. 10. Using words to describe how Smith was able to use his stick to thwart Gaborik’s penalty shot doesn’t do the save justice, so I recommend you click on the video below.
And for the record, if this save doesn’t win the NHL's Save of the Year contest, I recommend a full government inquiry.
• Watch: Smith's save on Gaborik
No. 2: Coyotes fans showed their support all season in many ways, including by making trips to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport - sometimes late at night or in the middle of work days - to greet the team as it arrived back in town after meaningful wins on the road.
The one I'll never forget occurred on April 24, the day after the Coyotes beat Chicago to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since moving to Arizona in 1996. It was a special moment for the franchise, and I can assure the fans who were there that it meant a lot to the players, coaches and staff who got off the plane.
• Watch: Fans greet Coyotes at airport
• Photos: Fans greet Coyotes at airport
No. 1: Captain Shane Doan played his first 1,160 NHL games without ever recording a hat trick. That streak ended on Jan. 7 when Doan notched three goals vs. the New York Islanders.
What made the event even more special was the dramatic fashion in which Doan scored his third goal. With time winding down – and with Doan nearly out of breath after a lengthy shift – Doan released a slap shot that passed by Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov at 19:59 of the third period. Fans inside Jobing.com Arena went nuts, of course, and Doan couldn’t stop smiling for hours.
• Watch: Doan completes hat trick
• Watch: Doan talks hat trick
• Watch: Doan's family reacts to hat trick
So, did I miss anything? What are your favorite moments from the 2011-12 season? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.