Coyotes hang on to playoff spot; Pacific Division review Part II


February 09, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right winger Radim Vrbata (17) scores during the overtime shootout against the San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) at HP Pavilion. Phoenix won 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose is the team who jumped out and looked unbeatable. That is until Phoenix handled them 50 minutes and a 3 – 1 lead only to see the SHarks wake up to 4 goals in the final 9 minutes to win the game. After being unbeaten the Sharks had a 3 – 3 opening period versus the Blackhawks who haven’t worried about anyone. That game ended 5 – 3 in favor of Chicago and led to 6 straight losses for San Jose. The road doesn’t look any better with the Sharks on the road in Dallas, then St. Louis, and Chicago twice. Which can spell a terrible 10 game stretch for them. Even if they manage 2 – 2 in their brutal stretch this week that’s is 2 – 8 in their last 10 games. OUCH! Talk about your early speed faders.

Meantime Phoenix is paving along. Chicago handled them twice in Phoenix with one on a back to back night early. But Phoenix has managed a few shutouts and tight wins on the road to stay in the conversation. They responded nicely from their drubbing at home for a win at San Jose and at Colorado. This all while recovering from injuries and suspension. Not to mention the rust early on that seemed to plague the defense the most. Tippett has his boys playing Pack mentality defense again. A key stretch for the Coyotes will be facing the Pacific leading Ducks on March 2nd, 4th, and 6th in a row with the first two at home. 4 or 5 points in that stretch could be huge moving toward the finish line. But there is still much work to do in February. With good defense, Mike Smith, and timely scoring the Coyotes should move into the top 5 in the West.

Feb 1, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Loui Eriksson (21) screens Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) as defenseman Zbynek Michalek (4) defends during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Coyotes in the overtime shootout 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly the Dallas Stars were doing really nothing except a pair of close wins over Phoenix. Then they were shutout 2-0 in Arizona before pulling off a nice little 4 game win streak including a victory over division leading Anaheim. This to stay relevant and hold on to their playoff hopes. Jamie Benn looks to have come into form and the Stars have their moments. It just seems they are old and incapable of staying healthy. I can’t see them challenging for the division this season.

So off we head into part 2 of this 4 part season where contenders and pretenders start to take form. At the halfway point we will revisit the Pacific and break down their chances heading into the 3rd and moving part of the season. Look for Anaheim to cool a little, San Jose to rebound some, Coyotes to stay around middle of the pack and the Stars and Kings dwindling down the ladder even further.