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Coyotes miss playoffs, inability to generate offense among reasons

Late-season slide, troubles on the road lead to seventh season in past eight without berth

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The Arizona Coyotes failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after reaching the Western Conference First Round last season.

Arizona (22-26-6) was eliminated from contention when it lost 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. The Coyotes can finish no higher than fifth in the eight-team Honda West Division. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

The Coyotes failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine seasons.

Here is a look at what happened during the 2020-21 season for the Coyotes and why things could be better next season:

The Skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Derick Brassard, F; Michael Bunting, F; D; Jason Demers, D; Alex Goligoski, D; Niklas Hjalmarsson, D; Jordan Oesterle, D; Antti Raanta, G

Potential restricted free agents: Conor Garland, F; John Hayden, F; Adin Hill, G; Dryden Hunt, F; Lane Pederson, F

Potential 2021 Draft picks: 6

What went wrong

Late-season slide: The Coyotes were 19-15-5 and in fourth place in the Honda West Division on April 6, five points ahead of the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues, who were tied for fifth. But Arizona lost nine of its next 11 games (2-9-0) and dropped to fifth place, five points behind the fourth-place Blues, on April 29. Arizona is 3-11-1 since a 4-3 loss at the Los Angeles Kings on April 7. During that span the Coyotes are 25th in the NHL with an average of 2.40 goals per game, and 24th with an average of 3.47 goals allowed.

Inability to generate offense: The Coyotes are 25th in the NHL in scoring at 2.59 goals per game, and 29th with an average of 27.3 shots on goal per game. Their issues have started early in games, where the Coyotes are tied for 24th with 37 first-period goals and have a minus-22 goal differential. And that lack of offense has hurt them when their defense hasn't kept them in games; the Coyotes have won one game when allowing more than three goals (5-4 shootout victory against the Colorado Avalanche on March 23). The Coyotes also are 25th in the NHL in goals (114) and points (274) from forwards.

Road woes: The Coyotes are 10-14-2 away from Gila River Arena. Their 10 road wins are tied with the Sharks (10-15-3) for fewest among West Division teams. The Coyotes have allowed 3.35 goals per game on the road, ninth-most in the NHL. At home, the Coyotes are 12-12-4.

Reasons for optimism

Kessel consistency: Phil Kessel refuses to let Father Time slow him down. The 33-year-old forward has scored 18 goals, tied with defenseman Jakob Chychrun for the Coyotes lead, and his 38 points in 54 games match his 70-game total from last season. Kessel leads the Coyotes with 10 multipoint games and his 16.5 percent shooting percentage is the highest of his 15-season NHL career.

Emergence of Chychrun: Jakob Chychrun, the No. 16 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, evolved into a true top-pair defenseman this season. The 23-year-old showed he could take over games with his skill set, skating, big shot and ability to defend and move the puck, all while averaging 23:18 in ice time this season, the most of his five-season NHL career. Chychrun leads NHL defensemen with 18 goals, is tied for ninth with 39 points, and is sixth with 26 even-strength points (13 goals, 13 assists). He's also tied for first with three game-winning goals.

Goaltending: Goalies Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill have provided the Coyotes with solid play in most games. Kuemper has a 2.58 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage and two shutouts in 26 games, and a .911 save percentage at even strength. Hill did an admirable job stepping in when Antti Raanta was injured, going 8-9-1 with a 2.67 GAA, a .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 18 games (16 starts). He has a .916 save percentage at even strength. Their strong play especially was noticeable on the penalty kill, where Arizona was 13th in the NHL with an 80.3 percent success rate despite being shorthanded 162 times, tied for the ninth-most in the League.

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