I’m If any team in the NHL this season shouldn’t be in a playoff push due to injuries, it would be the Arizona Coyotes. When you inspect the number of players who have missed significant time due to injuries this season, it becomes clear what the team is up against.
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) February 21, 2019
Arizona Coyotes Are in Playoff Push
The Arizona Coyotes are only three points out of a wild-card spot with 65 points and 19 games remaining. They have over 350 man-games lost to injuries this season, yet they are on a four-game winning streak.
They are currently on a seven-game homestand which should help them stay in the hunt. The Coyotes have won the first two games of the homestand, including an impressive 4-1 win over the Western Conference powerhouse Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
It certainly didn’t hurt the Coyotes’ chances of winning with it being Shane Doan’s jersey hanging night. Even with a far lesser offensive arsenal than the powerful Jets, the Coyotes bottled up the Winnipeg visitors and looked like the better team.
Yet, in the following game against the far weaker Florida Panthers, the Coyotes almost blew the game. They surrendered a 2-1 lead after two periods by allowing two unanswered goals. Derek Stepan had to come to the rescue by scoring a short-handed goal at 13:31 of the third period to tie the game.
In the Florida game, Vinnie Hinostroza became the hero for the second time in four games. He used the same nifty move which was successful in Edmonton on Tuesday night to win the game again in a shootout.
Returning Players to the Rescue
With general manager John Chayka deciding to only make one minor trade before the deadline, the Coyotes are hoping to get a couple more players back from injuries soon.
They have already seen Brad Richardson return from a hand injury. Then the long-awaited return of Christian Dvorak became a reality in the Florida game. He may be a bit rusty, but to have a centre back is like trading for one before the deadline.
The next rumoured players who may make an appearance soon could be Michael Grabner and perhaps Jason Demers. Grabner still needs to have his vision cleared after recovering from a nasty eye injury caused by an errant stick. He had been an essential part of the penalty-killing unit as well as playing on the power play.
Demers may be close also and he has started skating with the team in a no-contact jersey recently. His return to an already strong defense can only assist the Coyotes in being successful in qualifying for postseason play. He was a top-four defenseman pairing up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The Young Players Have Pitched in
When your regular roster is infected with injuries you need to have some talent in the AHL to use as replacements. The Coyotes have built up a strong force of reinforcements in their AHL affiliate in Tucson.
When Conor Garland was called up on Dec. 8, there weren’t excessive expectations except for him to fill a roster spot. However, he blossomed as an NHL player and has done an excellent job of filling in during tough times of need for this team.
He has 15 points with 12 goals in 36 contests and even scored a goal off his face. He actually came back after that freak incident and scored a second goal after being stitched up.
That’s Coyotes tough!
And the team showed their appreciation when they re-signed the tough little forward recently to a two-year extension.
When the team was down to one healthy goalie they called upon young Adin Hill to fill the void. He too showed terrific NHL talent by going 7-5 with a .901 save percentage and a respectable 2.76 goals against average.
It will be good to have three goalies going into next season once injured Antti Raanta returns. Darcy Kuemper has filled in admirably during the Coyotes’ playoff surge of late. His statistics show an 18-14-5 record with a .916 save percentage which places him 10th among goalies with 25 games played this season.
This Team is Hungry for the Playoffs
When a team doesn’t appear in the postseason since the 2011-12 season, you know they are hungry. Right now, this unit is playing some good hockey. Whether they will be rewarded with a wild-card spot is yet to be determined.
One thing is certain… they never give up and winning close games has been their downfall in recent seasons.
This season they seem to have found a way to win… and that is a sure sign of a playoff team.