I have a confession to make to all Coyotes fans who are reading this.
I’m not ready.
|Matt McConnell |
As some of you know, I have commuted this hockey season between the Valley and suburban Atlanta. There have been a lot of back-and-forth trips to see the family since the season started. There were also family trips to the Valley around the holidays that were great breaks in the schedule. My family loved coming to the Valley. My daughter instantly became a Shane Doan
fan. But when the season ends, I will pack up my condo contents, load up the car and head east for the off-season.
Frankly, I’m just not ready to make the trip back east. In fact, I’m hoping that trip gets postponed indefinitely. And there’s no way you can tell me any of the Coyotes - who keep pushing ahead and continue to battle for a playoff spot in these final days of the regular season - want this season to end on April 7.
Doan is coming off his three-game suspension this week, rested and ready to go after his personal nine-day penance. Ray Whitney
has had a magical season, pointed in more games than any other Coyotes player and set personal highs in plus/minus. How much fun would it be to watch his “wizardry” in the postseason? Mike Smith
has worked tirelessly to become a No. 1 goaltender. All of those sessions with Goaltending Coach Sean Burke and those acrobatic saves over the last six months need to mean something in a few weeks, right?
|Photo by Getty Images |
And how much fun would it be to watch “Hockey the Hard Way” unfold in the playoffs? Raffi Torres
loves the big games where he often excels (see: 2011 Stanley Cup Final). Players like Kyle Chipchura
, Gilbert Brule
, Daymond Langkow
, and Lauri Korpikoski
would make life miserable for the opponent with their tenacity deep in the zone. Derek Morris
and Rusty Klesla have been playing as if the postseason began two weeks ago, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson
and Keith Yandle
would quarterback the back end and give opposition defenders plenty to think about.
But before we get to that point, there’s plenty of work that needs to be accomplished. Heading into Thursday’s home game with San Jose, the Coyotes stand at 87 points with five games remaining. Potentially, we’re talking about a 97-point season. Three games are at home and two remain on the road. After Thursday’s game, the Coyotes will host Anaheim on Saturday and Columbus on Tuesday. They will finish the season with road games at St. Louis and at Minnesota. But handicapping this race to the postseason has been like handicapping a coin flip. The Ducks, Blue Jackets and Wild have all been eliminated from playoff contention and will play their final games loose and free. And let’s not forget that, throughout this season, the Coyotes have looked anything like the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens against these squads.
|Photo by Getty Images. |
And then there’s the potential of three-point games between now and the end of the regular season. Without a doubt, this phenomenon will play a role leading up to the April 7 finale.
But if the Coyotes can keep finding ways to accumulate points in the standings, they should put themselves in a good spot come mid-April. As of today, the cutoff for a playoff spot in the Western Conference stands at 93.86 points, marking the first time in a while it has dipped below 94 points. Yet keep in mind this number’s recent volatility has been greater than the price of gas.
It doesn’t matter how you get there.
Just get there.
Because none of us are ready to ride off into the off-season.