Arizona Coyotes See Path to Playoffs

RIchard Panik signs
ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 12: Arizona Coyotes' Richard Panik, left, skates back to the bench after scoring a goal with Clayton Keller during the second period of an NHL hockey game between the St. Louis Blues and the Arizona Coyotes on March 12, 2019, at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, MO. (Photo by Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In a season where the Arizona Coyotes have no real business being relevant due to excessive injuries; they have raised eyebrows everywhere by climbing into the final playoff spot, for now.

Coyotes Win vs St. Louis Was Like a Playoff Game

It’s been a while since the words “playoffs” and “Arizona Coyotes” have been included in the same sentence, but the team’s performance Monday night was nothing short of amazing. Looking at their execution during this playoff run, they are currently showing how they want to play should they qualify for the playoffs next month.

Winning 12 of Their Last 16 Games

It goes without saying that this year’s Coyotes’ team is overachieving. That could not have been possible without the outstanding play in net by Darcy Kuemper. Even after being yanked in a horrible game in Chicago, Kuemper’s came back with a strong performance against the St. Louis Blues to catapult his team into the final wild-card spot.

The 3-1 victory in St. Louis marked the ninth win in their last 11 games for the Arizona club and they have gone 12-4 down the stretch run for the playoffs.

Every Game Needs That Playoff Atmosphere

Player after player has stepped up to be the hero of the game each night. Each game from here on out is a playoff game for the Desert Dogs. To prove that, 11 different players have scored in double digits as of this writing.

Injuries to this team have been unthinkable and yet they “scratch and claw” every game to the amazement of everyone watching.

They’re already playing like an underdog team in the playoffs trying to stay alive to get to the next game or the next series.

A prime example of their uncanny ability to just keep going like the Energizer Bunny was when their captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson crashed into the boards in the Blues’ game. He left the ice bleeding above his left eyebrow and had blood stains on his jersey.

Did he sit out the next period? NO! He was back out there helping his team. This collection of players is so tightly knit thanks to the leadership of head coach Rick Tocchet that he has been rumored to be in the hunt for the Jack Adams Award.

Good Teams Come Back From a Bad Game

It’s a certainty that the Coyotes’ head coach Rick Tocchet had a serious conversation with his team before the Blues’ game. They know now with just 12 games remaining that their destiny is in their own hands.

Another embarrassing loss like the one in Chicago just can’t happen.

Tocchet’s message must have sunk in because the Coyotes were not the same team who were embarrassed in Chicago where defence took the night off.

Two players besides Kuemper who have really shown up big of late are Richard Panik and Vinnie Hinostroza. Panik has had two goals in his last two games and has tallied 13 goals and 18 assists in 61 games. And to think he was rumored to be traded at the deadline. Right now, general manager John Chayka‘s decision to keep him has been the correct one.

Then, Hinostroza has shown his brilliance of scoring timely goals. He had scored two exceptional goals with nifty moves in shootout games recently. Another good acquisition by Chayka. The Chicago Blackhawks are probably regretting giving up on him as much as the Coyotes who gave up on Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini.

Playoffs Are in Sight

With 12 games remaining, the Coyotes just need to worry about their own business and leave everyone’s else’s alone. If they continue to play good fundamental hockey and get the kind of goaltending they have from Kuemper, the rest will take care of itself.

They’re playing like a marathon runner who conserves their energy until near the end of the race. Finishing strong is what it’s all about in the NHL. Coyotes’ fans are loving it.

I wonder if all the Coyotes’ fans remember what a whiteout is like?

In just 12 games they may find out.

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