The Coyotes are currently six points out of a playoff spot and are heading into the toughest part of their season by far. In the past week the Coyotes have taken on the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and the Washington Capitals. The remainder of the week before trade deadline they will face the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and on deadline day it self, the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Coyotes can pick up seven of the 10 points available on the road, they may still be in the playoff chase by the deadline.
On Feb. 22, they lost a heartbreaker in Washington 3-2 in regulation. After a rough outing on Feb. 20, against the Blues, the Coyotes went back to Louis Domingue, who has been the best goaltender the Coyotes have had this season. He was extremely displeased at the refs after the 3-1 goal was allowed following a delayed whistle. Domingue’s comments were extreme but the young goaltender has had issues with officials blowing whistles late this season.
I can at least be amused by Jason Chimera’s comments after the game.
Jason Chimera was stoned multiple times by #Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue: "Louis Domingue is my new nemesis. Or however you pronounce it."
— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) February 23, 2016
(Learn his name, he’ll be around for quite a while.)
The Coyotes have seemingly had an issue with the officiating this season as well. Head coach Dave Tippett has been outspoken when it comes to how things are not consistent. As someone who watches the game, it is very frustrating when one play is called one way, then the exact same play is called another the next shift. Officials are humans, but some consistency wouldn’t hurt anyone.
The Deadline Approaches
The Coyotes have a few big decisions to make in the next seven days. The biggest elephant in the middle of the crowded dining room is Mikkel Boedker.
Boedker has cooled off considerably since December. He has posted just one goal in his last 24 games, with nine assists in the same time frame. He reportedly has asked for $6 million per year for his new contract, and with how he has been playing, no team will be signing him for that amount. Boedker may be gone before the deadline, to a team who needs a speedy winger, who may or may not hit 20 goals this season or any season.
Boedker’s play has been sloppy at best the last handful of games. The stress of contract negotiations and/or the stress of possibly being traded seems to be affecting his game. He has not been the same player since his season-ending injury last year. Something is off about his game, not sure if he is uncomfortable or if its something else.
The Coyotes have been looking to add a top-four right-handed defenseman since the start of the season. Possibly someone to be playing top pair with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is having a record-breaking year. To get said defenseman, most teams are asking for Ekman-Larsson and that is not an option.
Someone on my own personal wish list is a first-line center who is not Antoine Vermette, but that’s neither here nor there when you’re hoping for a push.
At the beginning of the year who would have predicted that the Coyotes, one week from trade deadline, would be six points out of a playoff wild card spot?
The team is currently at 60 points (which is four more points they had all of last season) and are four points behind the now-hot Minnesota Wild. If the team can get a small winning streak going, they could sneak into the eighth playoff spot.
With handily beating the Stars and close to completing a comeback against the Blues and the Capitals, the Coyotes are proving that they are not last year’s team. They have gone toe to toe with three of the four best teams in the league in a week and have kept the games close. Last year at this time, just scoring a goal would be a moral victory.
The rookies (all seven of them) have been solid for the team this season. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair recently have been played against the other teams top lines. The Domi-Martin Hanzal-Duclair line is starting to be a line that people want to avoid. Just wait until Domi and Duclair start to hit the early 20’s peak.
It would be amazing if they could squeak into the playoffs, to see a white-out in Gila River Arena, but a moral victory of not being in the bottom five, is enough for some Coyotes fans. After the hopeless end of last season, Coyotes fans can finally see the end of the tunnel.
A strong contending team with star players and skill is coming. It’s the wait that’s the hard part.