Coyotes Playoff Hopes
The new word to describe the NHL is parity. Well actually this is not quite new, especially in the Western Conference. This season though the parity is in full force, which means we will see a few good hockey clubs fall short of making the playoffs.
The Phoenix Coyotes have shocked many in the hockey world by making it to the postseason the past two seasons, despite many off-ice distractions. While this season thus far, they may not be on the same type of pace as the previous two, they are still in the playoff hunt. The strong play of goaltender Mike Smith and a career year offensively for Radim Vrbata have been two key reasons for the club staying in contention for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. While their is still plenty of time go in the regular season, the top 7 teams in the West will most likely stay the top 7 the rest of the way. As it currently stands in the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames and even the fast charging Anaheim Ducks, are all in the running for 1 playoff spot. While it’s nearly impossible to predict which of these teams will remain in contention until the end, if one had to guess, I would say the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames will play their way out of contention sooner rather then later. That would end up leaving the final playoff spot to either the Stars, Avalanche, Coyotes or the red-hot Ducks.
Beginning tonight, the Coyotes begin a stretch where they play 8 of their next 9 games at home. While the team has struggled on home ice, this stretch of games will determine their playoff fate, as well as impact the decision making process for General Manager Don Maloney as we head towards the NHL Trade Deadline. With Dave Tippett behind the bench anything is possible. As with any playoff push, any team involved needs to just keep it simple and play their game. Getting 2 points every night is huge and right now that is all the Coyotes can control.