Arizona Coyotes play solid road hockey and beat the Anaheim Ducks, nabbing 4th place in the process.
The 20-game countdown toward the end of the Arizona Coyotes‘ regular season began on Friday night with the Yotes snatching an impressive victory from the bills of the pesky Ducks.
Johan Larsson scored at 18:43 of the first period to tie the game at 1 about two and a half minutes following a Ducks goal by Alexander Volkov, his first with Anaheim. Phil Kessel scored his team leading 15th goal of the season in the third period, while Nick Schmaltz scored his 8th with an assist by Jordan Gross.
“Young guns” Jordan Gross and Lane Pederson made significant contributions toward the Arizona Coyotes win in Anaheim on Friday night, with Pederson scoring his first NHL goal 10:47 into the second period with some nifty stick work and assists by Alex Goligoski and Christian Dvorak.
Only time will tell who will ultimately occupy the fourth playoff spot in the Honda West Division, and how many points it will eventually take to get there. The only thing that anyone knows for sure is that a team can help its cause by “winning out,” but that’s not very likely to happen to anyone in this division.
The Vegas Golden Knights, (50 pts) Colorado Avalanche, (52 pts) and Minnesota Wild (46 pts) are pretty much thought of as shoo-ins. The St. Louis Blues (38 pts) may be the sentimental favorite for the 4th spot if they can overcome an extremely difficult schedule that has them playing the top three teams mentioned above an incredible 16 times in 20 games, beginning on Saturday night in Colorado.
Should the Blues stumble and fall by the wayside during their final 20 plus games, it may open the door for the Arizona Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings, and the San Jose Sharks to battle for the spot. The challenges for each of those teams involve inconsistent play, a lack of scoring, injured goalkeepers, and occasionally, some swiss cheese style defenses.
The Arizona Coyotes have no choice but to rely on everyone on the roster to step up and contribute in their final 19 games.
The Coyotes have been cursed by inconsistent play throughout the season, and there’s not much time left to improve its team consistency well enough to be a viable playoff candidate, especially when their top two goalkeepers are on the fritz. They’ve given up 15 more goals than they’ve scored, while the Blues are minus-14, the Sharks minus-18, and the Kings are at minus-3.
So at this juncture does any particular club have an advantage over the others due to the strength of schedule? We can scratch the St. Louis Blues off that list for now. Although they will certainly compete until the end, winning those games is pretty improbable, so let’s shelve the Blues for now.
The Sharks play the VGK, Avalanche, and Wild a total of 10 times in their last 21 and have one game in hand on the Coyotes, while the Kings play the top three clubs 7 times in their 21 remaining games, with 2 games in hand on the Desert Dogs. The Arizona Coyotes play the top three teams 8 times, but end up playing the Kings and the Sharks a total of 9 remaining times, including their last 4 games of the season.
It cannot be stated emphatically enough that the Arizona Coyotes will need to win the majority of their head-to-head games with the Kings and Sharks to remain eligible for postseason play. With nineteen games left, the Desert Dogs (17-15-5 39 pts) need to keep up the pace, and the young blood up from Tucson Roadrunners may very well be the key. Let’s go Coyotes!