If the Arizona Coyotes are still in the playoff hunt by mid-March, they have five important home games which will be must-wins. From March 12th to the 20th they play the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights, and Detroit Red Wings.
Arizona Coyotes Schedule Becomes Crucial
Five Games Could Decide the Season
Each of these games has its different challenges. There are three teams of playoff-calibre competition and that increases the challenge. The fact that they’re home games doesn’t necessarily help the Desert Dogs who have struggled on home ice this season. That factor alone could have them higher in the standings when you compare them to most teams.
The Canucks possess an excellent 19-7-3 home record. The Stars have a 17-9-2 mark, while the Vegas club goes away with a 16-10-4 record. All better than the Arizona team’s 14-11-4 home ice statistic.
The Coyotes will only have seven games after this crucial five-game homestand. Winning four of five or even all five is almost a prerequisite for them qualifying for postseason play.
If one can assume that the team can muster eight to 10 points before this homestand, then they may stand a chance. That is a huge if since they will be playing the likes of the Stars, St. Louis Blues, Canucks, Calgary Flames, and the Winnipeg Jets who are all currently playoff contending teams. The Arizona Coyotes record against those five teams only shows four wins out of eight games. They also play less-than playoff formidable teams like the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres in that stretch.
Upon Further Review
Most of the time a team’s dependency upon other teams helping them gain in the standings is limited, to say the least. It is a well known saying that you have the most input as to your own team’s destiny than depending on others to help you. The Arizona Coyotes schedule currently shows 15 Western Conference games remaining, eight of which being against a Pacific Division foe. These games can be classified as “four-point” games in the standings. Win them and you can leapfrog over some of your opponents. Lose them and it stings like a bee.
Right now according to HockeyReference‘s forecast of how the Western Conference race may end, the Arizona Coyotes will be just below the 90-plus points needed to make the playoffs. It seems the Predators and Flames may bump them out by a slim margin. Which means anything can happen. The Coyotes hold just a 48.3 percent probability of being in the playoffs, and that’s fairly discouraging. It must be noted that this projection changes daily. Results are formulated into the predictions as well as each team’s schedule.
Injuries Play a Factor
We’ve already seen how injuries have affected a team’s performance with the Coyotes experiencing it concerning the injuries affecting Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. If Kuemper can return in the next couple of games healthy, that would give the Arizona club a huge boost. But, will it be a bit too late? The Edmonton Oilers are doing fairly well without their star Connor McDavid in the lineup, but it’s only been a couple of games.
With 21 games remaining and not knowing what to expect, it seems logical that the Arizona Coyotes schedule is what it is. They must bear down and win big games, and as many as possible in order to remain relevant concerning playoff qualification.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going
Nobody can blame one player for the mediocre play lately of the team. Going 3-4-3 in their last 10 games tells it all. Players need to step up and perform. They are being paid millions to do just that. Clayton Keller was just awarded a new contract starting next season worth $7.15 million for eight years, someone like that just HAS to perform! Then, even though forward Nick Schmaltz leads the team with 40 points, he has only eight goals in 61 games. Last season he had seven goals in 40 games, due to an injury. He is also nicely compensated with a seven-year $5.85 million deal.
Another proven veteran who knows what it means to step up is Phil Kessel. While his statistics are really down this season (13G, 21A) he is valuable on the power play. This is proven by his nine extra-man tallies out of the 13 total times he’s scored this season. The team must get him the puck, and he can show you results. Then, if the Coyotes make it to the playoffs, Kessel will be a valuable asset in that setting.
Kessel has 33 goals, 44 assists in 87 playoff contests, including 12 power-play tallies. You need clutch veteran players to guide the younger players on any team.
It becomes simple math at this time of the season. Each team is fighting for an advantage to put them over the top. The Arizona Coyotes will be no different. The only question that requires a response at this point, can they put forth the effort and show the league and their fans that they’ve got what it takes? Five crucial games may show just that.