Well, here we are at the beginning of the last week of the NHL’s regular season. For the Coyotes, it’s a week that features three games, all against teams headed to the playoffs – Nashville, Los Angeles and San Jose.
Logic suggests when the week is over the Coyotes will be right where they started – in fourth place in the Western Conference. That’s not a certainty, of course, but it’s the most likely scenario given where they sit in the standings and the math surrounding the final week of the season. (Click here
to judge for yourself).
From my seat, the fourth playoff seed is the perfect spot for the Coyotes. Being slotted there will allow them to enter the postseason with home-ice advantage in the first round but yet be somewhat under the radar and able to play without the pressure of being a top seed.
I’m looking forward to all three games this week, especially Saturday’s regular-season finale in San Jose. These teams haven’t squared off in a while and I am eager to see how the Coyotes perform against what will likely be the No. 1 seed in the conference. And who knows, perhaps the top seed in the conference will be on the line…
Coyotes captain Shane Doan
would love to snap his goal-scoring drought before the playoffs start. Doan, who last scored a goal on Jan. 31, now is in danger of finishing the season with less than 20 goals. That would be a first for him since the 1998-99 season.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett isn’t worried about Doan, who has been playing the second half of the season with an injury Doan shrugs off but that has certainly affected his stats.
“Shane continues to be a big factor in what we’re doing on the ice,” Tippett said. “He logs real hard minutes and we’re going to continue to push him in that role. If you look at Shane Doan
he’s a guy, to me, that could be an unbelievable playoff player and score big goals at the right time. I guarantee if he gets a couple big playoff goals he won’t be thinking about a streak where he didn’t score for a long time. I think that’s his mind-set right now and we’ll continue to push him in that direction. He’s still one of the key guys for us.”
The Coyotes didn’t practice on Sunday so I had a chance to go through my digital voice recorder and clean it out for the final week of the season. While doing so, I came across some fascinating quotes that need to be published before deletion. Head Coach Dave Tippett on reaching the playoffs:
“I thought we were a playoff team before I started this job. Otherwise I wouldn't be here.”
Defenseman Mathieu Schneider on his first month with the Coyotes:
“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to come in to. This team has been playing so well and winning games. It’s fun to be a part of. And for me, it’s really been about getting my game back to where it needs to be. Each game I’ve felt stronger and stronger and my timing has been better and better. Having said that, everything right now is about being focused on and getting ready for the playoffs.”
Head Coach Dave Tippett on the team’s approach to the rest of the regular season after clinching a playoff berth:
“There’s not a lot of pullback here. I’m not a big fan of pulling back. I think what happens is when you pull back you have a hard time getting it back… We’re at a critical time here because the opportunities to get better aren’t as many as they were at the start of the season.”Forward Lee Stempniak on scoring 13 goals in his first month with the Coyotes:
“I’d be lying if I said I expected to score this many goals… In the summer, I watched a lot of games from my time in St. Louis, and a lot of the success I had there came from going to the right places at the right times. It’s something I’ve focused on this year and it’s been paying off.”Forward Paul Bissonnette on his role with the team:
“I'm pretty vocal in the room as far as joking around and keeping the guys light. As little a role as I do play, I feel that it's a piece of the puzzle so I'll just stick to that.”
Head Coach Dave Tippett on his “system” and “structure":
“I think the words ‘system’ and ‘structure’ are overused… I just think it’s the ability to get a group to play well together, and I think our group has bought in and they recognize the things we have to do to be successful. Sometimes that’s less about X’s and O’s and more about the attitude in the dressing room. Our guys have done a great job to play well as a group. Everybody is pulling in the same direction.”
Thanks for reading.