Arizona Coyotes need to grab valuable 2 points from Anaheim Ducks tonight, as threatening, just-below-the-surface Sharks and Blues are right on their heels.
The Arizona Coyotes were able to climb up the standings ladder due to two factors: their 4 to 2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, and the two consecutive losses by the St. Louis Blues in Denver.
The Colorado Avalanche won 3 to 2 on Friday night and 2 to 1 on Saturday, keeping the Blues (16-15-6) at 38 points. Things don’t get easier for the Blues, as they play a two-game set in Vegas (24-10-2 50 pts) and then another 2-gamer in Minnesota (23-11-2 48 pts) against the Wild.
Teams will move up and down the Honda West Division standings almost daily now, especially the bottom 4 or 5 battling for the final playoff spot. It is thus imperative that the Coyotes continue to stack points and separate themselves from the rest of the pack. They play the Ducks (11-21-6 28 pts) again tonight, and on paper it looks as though they should win the game because of 1) their victory on Friday night and 2) the Ducks’ dismal record.
But it is that dangerous thinking that dooms teams in all sports at every level, and in the NHL, the Desert Dogs can’t afford to do anything other than replicate what they do well and extinguish the mental and/or physical errors that get them into trouble.
It’s somewhat of a “blessing” that the Coyotes face the Anaheim Ducks tonight and then travel to Los Angeles (14-16-6 34 pts) to play the Kings on Monday and Wednesday nights. In case you were wondering, the “blessing” is based upon the fact the Yotes don’t have to play Colorado, Vegas, or Minnesota again just yet. But if the Yotes don’t beat the teams currently beneath them in the standings, they’ve lost ground immediately. We’ve heard it a hundred times before: each intra-division game is a 4-point game, and it’s true.
If the Coyotes win game #19 tonight in regulation time, they’ll have 51 points, and the Ducks will still have 28, with only 17 games to play. In order to reach the Yotes’ current 51 points then, the Ducks would have to win at least 6 of their 17 games just to reach today’s current 4th-place cutoff point. Seven of the 17 are against the top three in the division. Remember that things are likely to change every day from now on.
The surprising, improving San Jose Sharks (17-16-4 38 pts) have beaten the Kings twice in a row and are only one point behind the Coyotes. They have been playing much better hockey and have momentum at the perfect time. The Sharks are a legitimate contender for 4th place.
Some fans may think like this: Well, we beat the Sharks, and the Sharks just beat the Kings twice, so logically we should be able to beat the Kings after the Ducks series is over. No problem, right? Not exactly, and too bad it isn’t that simple.
The Coyotes and Kings have always played each other very physically, and normally have closely fought games. There’s never a guarantee about who beats who, especially when there are different lineups taking the ice each game.
Let’s see how the Coyotes’ game tonight goes against the Anaheim Ducks. Hopefully, with the infusion and inclusion of some of the eager beavers from Tucson, the team’s energetic and uptempo play will result in another impressive win. Time will tell. Let’s go Coyotes!