Arizona Coyotes have a legitimate shot at this year’s playoffs with a healthy goalkeeper and consistent, disciplined hockey.
The Arizona Coyotes have suffered a number of self-inflicted wounds during their first 33 games of this truncated, unique season, and are likely to suffer a few more. Nevertheless, they are still legitimate contenders for the fourth playoff spot in the Honda West Division.
As any Coyotes fan can tell you, the Yotes have been wildly inconsistent, and Lord knows what product they’ll bring to the ice on any given day. They can be “fire on ice” one evening and then lay an egg the next. For that matter, they’ve been up and down like that within the same game a lot. Amazingly enough, that inconsistency has not precluded them from eyeing the postseason that is a mere 23 games down the road.
Entering tonight’s game with the San Jose Sharks (13-14-4 30 pts), the Coyotes (14-14-5 33 pts) are only 4 points behind the 4th place St. louis Blues, who were shut out Thursday night 2 to 0 by the Minnesota Wild. The Sharks have two games in hand on the Yotes, and after this weekend’s 2-game set, they will play each other 4 more times, including the last two games of the season in San Jose.
It isn’t reasonable to think that the Desert Dogs will be able to catch the VGK, Avalanche, or the Wild at the top of the standings, but the fourth spot is certainly achievable. The St. Louis Blues (16-12-5 37 pts) will play those three teams 17 times in their last 23 games. They’ve feasted on the lower half of the Honda West Division for a while now, and they obviously have significant “hunger issues” ahead of them.
The Coyotes will have challenges of their own in competing for the postseason, the biggest of which involves the status of their goalkeeping group. With Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta shelved, the netminding tasks are left to Adin Hill and backup Ivan Prosvetov. Without a healthy and competent goalkeeper, any dreams of the playoffs are kaput.
As far as the skaters, the Yotes need to improve their on-goal shooting efficiency, as their shots have been embarrassingly inaccurate. “Just a bit outside” won’t cut it, and they certainly need to increase the sheer number of quality shots they take.
The Coyotes would help themselves tremendously by avoiding committing dumb penalties, and REALLY help themselves if they could figure out how to enter their “O” zone cleanly while on the power play and actually shoot the puck.
As the saying goes, “take care of your own business and don’t worry about things that you can’t control.” Easier said than done, of course, but the Coyotes certainly have control over what kind of effort and aggressiveness they can bring to the ice from here on out. It should start tonight against the San Jose Sharks, who are themselves looking to climb the ladder to the postseason by using the Yotes as their bottom few rungs.
Doesn’t it seem odd to mention the Coyotes as being in the playoff hunt after watching them struggle and hover around “.500” all season? It’s been a weird and wacky season indeed. Whether they make it or not, they have no choice but to take things one game at a time, beginning tonight.
They’re incrementally headed in the right direction, and we should be cautiously optimistic about their immediate future and beyond. Let’s go Coyotes!