It was satisfying to watch the Arizona Coyotes defeat the San Jose Sharks at the Shark tank 5 to 2 on Friday night, yet I couldn’t help but wonder what fellow Yotes fans were thinking as the game went on and the Desert Dogs pulled out a win. Was it “that was great, but too little too late” and thus nothing to get excited about, or was there a glimmer of hope in seeing two of the newest representatives of the Coyotes future (three if you count Michael Bunting) get some valuable NHL playing time and scoring goals, or a bit of both? Victor Soderstrom and Jan Jenik both lit the lamp on a night when Phil Kessel got his 19th goal of the season and 900th NHL point.
It was easy to think about what might have been had the Coyotes beaten the Sharks last week, but obsessing over “woulda, coulda, shoulda” doesn’t achieve a thing and will just drive fans nuts. Win or lose on Saturday night, the Yotes will end their season below the “.500” winning percentage mark.
The NHL’s postseason will begin soon, however, and 14 of the 16 participating teams have been identified as of Saturday morning. The first two rounds of these playoffs will involve intradivisional games, which means that Team 1 will open against Team 4, and Team 2 will play Team 3 in each of the 4 divisions in the first round. The winners of those two series will then face one another in what is essentially the division finals before the winners advance to interdivisional play.
Once the final 4 have been identified. there will be a re-seeding of the teams based on the total points they accumulated during the regular season. That means that two teams from the same conference could play each other for the Stanley Cup.
In the Honda West, Arizona Coyotes fans are very familiar with the top 4 teams in their division and could have some fun choosing which team they may want to support now that the Coyotes have been eliminated. Although many might want them all to lose, there may be a sentimental favorite, like the Blues. The Blue Notes are the only team that knows its playoff position – 4th. The top three teams are still jockeying for the top three spots.
It will be interesting when teams begin playing clubs that they haven’t faced all season. We know how good the Vegas Golden Knights were in the Honda West, but how do they match up against the best teams in the entire league (points wise), like the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, or Tampa Bay Lightning, for example? These playoffs will give Arizona Coyotes fans an opportunity to watch the teams the Yotes will be facing next season as members of the Central Division. The Avalanche, Wild, Blues, and Jets are already in, while the Stars and Predators are fighting for the 4th spot in the current Central Division with two games remaining each. Nashville plays the top-seeded Carolina Hurricanes, while the Dallas Stars face the Chicago BlackHawks.
These 2020-21 playoffs will provide Arizona Coyotes fans ample opportunities to see the best of the best play intense, hard-nosed hockey, and it all starts next week. Let’s all enjoy the ride!