The Coyotes are about to test their individual and collective physical and mental fortitude beginning with a contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio.
The Coyotes have left the sunny skies of Arizona behind to try to focus on winning four critical road games over the next six days. If playing “away” cures the ills of a struggling NHL team by allowing them to play basic, fundamental hockey and win, let’s wish them safe travels!
This group of games includes much-anticipated battles with the Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Chicago Blackhawks, and the results may very well foretell what we can expect from the Coyotes for the remainder of their season.
Collectively, teams are tired, and the almost daily grind of traveling, playing numerous games (including back-to-backs) on shortened schedules, and an inability to have full practices all take their tolls. All these stressors have a significant impact on organizations, and we are only about one-third of the way through the season!
So let’s see what the pleasantly surprising Arizona Coyotes (thus far) have in store for us during the next four games. Will substandard performances from Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel continue to be the norm, or will they show signs of life and begin earning their paychecks?
Will Brad Richardson score a goal? Will Michael Grabner get more offensive playing time? Will a Coyote score on a breakaway? Will the defense be able to possess the puck without losing it to an opponent due to a bad pass inside their “D” zone? More critically, will the power play unit manage to successfully get the puck into the “O” zone and score a goal?
All these are valid concerns and I expect the “traveling version” of the Arizona Coyotes to improve on every count in the next 4 games.
But let’s take a look from a “macro” view for a minute. Do the Coyotes currently have the right personnel on their roster to make a serious run toward the playoffs?
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Much of the team have the hearts of lions but are sometimes banged around like lion cubs. Do the Coyotes need bigger players to balance things out both offensively and defensively? Do the ‘Yotes need more “mass” to help “muck it up” in the corners to gain or maintain possession of the puck?
Regardless of the answers to these questions, progress is measured in the actual results on the scoreboard. “Woulda, shoulda, coulda” doesn’t mean diddly. Good effort is meaningless.
If the Arizona Coyotes play the way they are capable of, that is with grit, determination, and the willingness to get down and dirty and win the one-on-one battles, they will be successful where it counts – on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Right now, however, the gap on the “potential meter” between what “is” and what “could be” is wide, and only the Coyotes have the power to narrow it. Let’s go Coyotes!