Coyotes Keep Pace in Crowded Playoff Race

The Arizona Coyotes, winners of seven of their last nine, are getting hot at the right time.

There’s only one problem, though – everyone else they’re trying to chase down for a playoff spot got hot, too. With 19 games to play, the ‘Yotes are two points behind the Dallas Stars, three points behind the Minnesota Wild, and six points behind the Vegas Golden Knights, who occupy the West’s final three playoff spots.

Can Arizona catch one of these three clubs and earn its first postseason berth since the 2011-12 season? It’ll require six more solid weeks of hockey, but, as the team continues to get healthy, it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Remember, folks – this is a team that was highly competitive early in the season before injuries decimated the roster. If they can re-capture that momentum, the whiteout will return to Glendale during the second week of April.

Coyotes Week in Review

After splitting two games in Alberta, the Coyotes closed out their three-game Western Canada roadie on Thursday evening at Rogers Arena against the Vancouver Canucks. Bo Horvat gave Vancouver the early lead just 9:47 into the first period, and Arizona was held off of the scoresheet until halfway through the third, when Jakob Chychrun fired home a power-play goal to tie the game. Lawson Crouse scored the apparent game-winner just over five minutes later, but the Canucks’ Adam Gaudette answered with 3:03 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, where Alex Galchenyuk did this to send the Coyotes home with the victory:

With four road points in the bank, the ‘Yotes returned home to Gila River Arena and welcomed the Winnipeg Jets to the Valley on Sunday as they kicked off a seven-game homestand by raising Shane Doan’s No. 19 to the rafters.

Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes, NHL
Shane Doan’s No. 19 will hang in the rafters of Gila River Arena forever. (Photo by Andy Martin Jr)

The pre-game ceremony, which was 90 minutes long and resulted in a 45-minute delay to the game’s start time (though no one in Glendale was complaining), was extremely emotional and was everything that it needed to be – it paid tribute to the man and player that Shane Doan was on and off the ice, and it allowed the fans to properly thank the man who gave his entire 22-year career to the franchise after his tenure with the Coyotes ended rather abruptly in 2017.

Following the ceremony, the Coyotes still had a game to play, and they fell behind early on a Patrik Laine power-play goal. However, they quickly bounced back, as they scored the final four goals of the night to earn a 4-1 triumph against the Central Division’s top team.

Following Sunday’s emotional victory, the Florida Panthers came to town on Tuesday evening. After a scoreless first period, the game quickly heated up – Derek Stepan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson lit the lamp for Arizona during the second, while Mike Hoffman scored Florida’s only goal of the middle frame. When the third period began, Florida pushed hard and took the lead with two quick goals. The Coyotes were 20-1-1 this season when leading after two periods, and it looked like they were in danger of suffering a regulation loss when the Panthers received a power play with 6:46 remaining in the game. However, just 17 seconds into the penalty kill, Derek Stepan electrified the crowd with a game-tying shorthanded goal, Arizona’s 13th shorty of the season. The Coyotes then had multiple chances to complete the comeback in regulation time, but they hit three goalposts in the waning minutes, and the game headed to overtime, and, eventually, a shootout, where all three Coyotes shooters lit the lamp to give Arizona the 4-3 victory.

YouTube player

A Look Ahead

After their shootout thriller on Tuesday, the Coyotes’ homestand will continue on Thursday, when the Vancouver Canucks come to town for the final time this season. These two teams met in Glendale back on Oct. 25, with the Coyotes picking up a 4-1 win. Overall, Arizona is currently riding a six-game point streak against the boys from B.C. – they’re 5-0-1 against the Canucks over the past 12 months, with wins in all three meetings this season. They’ll likely need another win here to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race – puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. at Gila River Arena.

Jacob Markstrom, Brock Boeser, Alex Galchenyuk, Ben Hutton
Alex Galchenyuk scored the game-winner in overtime last Thursday to give the Coyotes their third win in as many tries against the Canucks this season. Can they complete the sweep? (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The Detroit Red Wings will then come to town on Saturday evening. These two teams used to share some animosity toward one another after meeting in the playoffs in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011, but it’s been a long time since then, and most of the players on both clubs’ current rosters weren’t around for those two classic postseason battles. The rivalry is still strong with the fans, though – expect a loud and rowdy environment when this one gets started at 6:00 P.M. in Glendale.

Dylan Larkin Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings were sellers at the trade deadline, but they still retain dangerous scorers like Dylan Larkin. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Arizona will then complete its slate of games for the week on Tuesday night with a divisional matchup against the Anaheim Ducks. On paper, this is a game that the Coyotes should win – the Ducks have just five wins in the last 72 days, and the ‘Yotes do not want to become the sixth victim to drop a game against Bob Murray’s struggling squad. However, as we’ve seen historically, teams that are out of contention often are motivated to play spoiler against playoff-contending clubs. Arizona needs to be ready to play when the puck drops at 7:00 P.M.

Pacific Division Roundup

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – the Calgary Flames are red-hot. It’s been the theme in the Pacific Division all season long, and Bill Peters’ squad is once again heating up.

Anaheim Ducks (24-30-9, 57 points)

  • Last week: 0-3-0 (2-1 L at CGY, 2-1 L at EDM, 4-0 L at VAN)
  • Analysis: Well, the Ducks made things interesting after wins in three of four from Feb. 13 to Feb. 19, but they were swept on their three-game swing through Western Canada last week. Anaheim’s minus-56 goal differential is the worst in the league, as is their total of 139 goals. The season can’t end fast enough in Orange County.
  • Player of the week: Carter Rowney – Goal, assist, +1, 3 SOG
  • This week: Wed vs CHI, Fri vs VGK, Sun vs COL, Tue at AZ

Calgary Flames (40-16-7, 87 points)

  • Last week: 4-0-0 (4-2 W vs NYI, 2-1 W vs ANA, 2-1 W at OTT, 3-1 W at NYI)
  • Analysis: The Flames are officially back to their winning ways – they’ve picked up six consecutive regulation victories, and are now in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, with a five-point lead over their nearest conference competitor. They’re threatening to run away with this thing, but the fact that general manager Brad Treliving stood pat and didn’t add a goaltender at the trade deadline remains troubling.
  • Player of the week: Mike Smith – 3-0-0 record, 68 saves on 72 shots (.944 SV%, 1.33 GAA)
  • This week: Wed at NJ, Sat vs MIN, Mon vs TOR
Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith
After losing his job to David Rittich, it appears as if Mike Smith is once again the starter in Calgary. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Edmonton Oilers (26-29-7, 59 points)

  • Last week: 2-0-1 (4-3 OTW vs NYI, 2-1 W vs ANA, 3-2 SOL at NSH)
  • Analysis: The Most Inconsistent Team in the NHL™ actually had a decent week, as they picked up five points in three games and are now 2-0-2 in their last four. However, with eight points (and five teams) separating the Oilers from a playoff spot, is it a classic case of too little, too late?
  • Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 3 goals, 2 assists, +2, 8 SOG
  • This week: Wed at TOR, Thu at OTT, Sat at CBJ, Mon at BUF

Los Angeles Kings (23-33-7, 53 points)

  • Last week: 0-4-0 (2-1 L at NSH, 6-1 L at FLA, 4-3 SOL at TB, 6-1 L at CAR)
  • Analysis: It was an absolutely miserable week for the Los Angeles Kings, who have now lost nine straight. They scored just a single goal in three of their four games, they suffered two 6-1 losses, and they squandered a third-period lead in Tampa Bay and eventually lost in a shootout. It’s been a rough year in SoCal – the last time both teams from the vicinity missed the playoffs was 2003-04. It’ll happen again this year.
  • Player of the week: Austin Wagner – Goal, 2 assists
  • This week: Thu vs DAL, Sat vs CHI, Tue vs MTL

San Jose Sharks (37-19-8, 82 points)

  • Last week: 2-2-0 (4-0 W at PIT, 4-0 L at CBJ, 5-3 W at DET, 4-1 L at BOS)
  • Analysis: Since winning six straight from Jan. 22 to Feb. 11, the Sharks have been perfectly average – they’re 3-3-1 in their last seven after splitting last week’s four-game roadie with two regulation wins and two regulation defeats. They’ll be back at the Shark Tank for their next four, and seven of their next nine. They can essentially bury Vegas and lock themselves into one of the Pacific’s top two spots in the coming weeks – will they take advantage of a friendly schedule?
  • Player of the week: Brent Burns – 2 goals, 3 assists, 14 SOG
  • This week: Fri vs COL, Sun vs CHI
San Jose Sharks Martin Jones
The Sharks need Martin Jones to be better at 5-on-5 – his .894 5v5 SV% is the worst in the league among netminders with at least 20 games played. (AP Photo/Scot Tucker)

Vancouver Canucks (27-28-8, 62 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-1 (3-2 OTL vs AZ, 4-0 L vs NYI, 4-0 W vs ANA)
  • Analysis: Vancouver continues to wallow in mediocrity – since their last two-game winning streak from Jan. 18 to Jan. 20, the Canucks are 4-7-2. They’re now five points off of the playoff pace and are being left behind by the other teams in the Western Conference.
  • Player of the week: Bo Horvat – 3 goals, +2, 11 SOG
  • This week: Wed at COL, Thu at AZ, Sun at VGK

Vegas Golden Knights (33-26-5, 71 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-1 (3-2 SOL vs BOS, 6-3 L vs WPG, 4-1 W vs DAL)
  • Analysis: The Golden Knights had another average week on the ice, but they made a lot of noise off the ice by acquiring forward Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators at the deadline and immediately signing him to a lucrative eight-year, $76 million extension. Stone should immediately bolster Vegas’ power play and penalty kill units, and he’ll provide a formidable presence at even-strength as well. It might be too late to catch San Jose or Calgary, but Vegas definitely looks like they’ll be able to hang onto that No. 3 spot in the Pacific.
  • Player of the week: Reilly Smith – Goal, 3 assists, +3, 8 SOG
  • This week: Thu vs FLA, Fri at ANA, Sun vs VAN
Ottawa Senators Mark Stone
Mark Stone will be a huge factor in Vegas’ playoff run this season. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Wild-Card Roundup

With the Coyotes in playoff contention for the first time in quite a while, we need to start keeping track of more than just their division rivals – here’s a look at how the other teams in the running for playoff spots in the West fared last week:

Minnesota Wild (31-27-6, 68 points, 7th in West)

  • Last week: 4-0-0 (4-1 W at NYR, 3-2 W at DET, 2-1 OTW vs STL, 3-2 W at WPG)
  • Analysis: Winners of four straight games, the Minnesota Wild have risen from the absolute dead and are once again a contender for one of the West’s wild-card spots. They received a significant boost from deadline addition Ryan Donato, who contributed six points in his first four games in a Wild uniform after posting just nine points in 34 games with Boston. Minnesota is also being carried by goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who won all four of his starts last week and allowed just six goals on 122 shots in the process.
  • Player of the week: Ryan Donato – Goal, 5 assists, +3, 11 SOG
  • This week: Sat at CGY, Sun vs NSH, Tue at NSH
Minnesota Wild Ryan Donato
Ryan Donato has benefitted tremendously from a change of scenery. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Dallas Stars (31-27-5, 67 points, 8th in West)

  • Last week: 2-2-0 (5-2 W vs STL, 3-0 L vs CAR, 4-3 W at CHI, 4-1 L at VGK)
  • Analysis: Dallas made some noise at the trade deadline, acquiring veteran Mats Zuccarello from the New York Rangers in exchange for conditional second and third-round picks. However, the positive vibe surrounding the move didn’t last long, as Zuccarello suffered a broken arm while blocking a shot during the second period of his first game as a Star. He’s out a minimum of four weeks, meaning a late-March return is the best-case scenario.
  • Players of the week: Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin – 2-2-0 combined record, 159 saves on 168 combined shots (.946 SV%)
  • This week: Thu at LA, Sat at STL, Tue vs NYR

Colorado Avalanche (27-24-12, 66 points, 9th in West)

  • Last week: 3-0-1 (7-1 W vs WPG, 5-3 W at CHI, 5-0 W at NSH, 4-3 OTL vs FLA)
  • Analysis: Since their eight-game skid from Jan. 21 to Feb. 12, the Avs are rolling – they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven and are once again a team to be reckoned with out West. After a mid-season scoring drought, they seem to have rediscovered their offense – not too many teams can slow down the combination of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen when they’re hot.
  • Player of the week: Carl Soderberg – 3 goals, 4 assists, +8, 15 SOG
  • This week: Wed vs VAN, Fri at SJ, Sun at ANA, Tue vs DET