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Coyotes couldn't overcome record-worst start

Arizona counting on youth, goaltending after elimination from playoff contention

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Arizona Coyotes (23-35-11) were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention Wednesday when the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-0.

The Coyotes will miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season, last qualifying in 2011-12 when they advanced to the Western Conference Final. Arizona could have a top five selection in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft for the first time since 2015, when they selected forward Dylan Strome at No. 3.

Here is a look at what went wrong for the Coyotes this season and why things could be better next season:

 

The skinny

Potential UFAs: Kevin Connauton, D; Antti Raanta, G; Brad Richardson, C; Zac Rinaldo, C; Luke Schenn, D

Potential RFAs: Laurent Dauphin, C; Max Domi, LW; Freddie Hamilton, C

Potential 2018 NHL Draft picks: 6

 

What went wrong

Record-tying losing streak: The Coyotes lost their first 11 games of the season (0-10-1) to tie the worst start to a season in NHL history (1943-44 New York Rangers) and won two of their first 20 games (2-15-3). That left the Coyotes no room for error, despite playing better in the second half of the season.

Anemic offense: Arizona has scored 165 goals (2.39) per game, second fewest in the NHL (Buffalo Sabres, 164, 2.38). The Coyotes have finished 24th or worse in goals each of the prior three seasons. Arizona has scored two goals or fewer in 42 of 69 games this season.

Video: LAK@ARI: Dvorak fires home top-shelf snipe

Injuries: The Coyotes began the season without defenseman Jakub Chychrun, who missed 29 games recovering from a knee injury. Antti Raanta, acquired in an offseason trade from the Rangers to be the No. 1 goalie, missed 20 games with various injuries. Defenseman Nicklas Hjalmarsson, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason, missed 10 games from Oct. 31-Nov. 18 and 16 from Nov. 30-Jan. 6, each time with an upper-body injury.

 

Reasons for optimism

Youth is served: Arizona has gotten good production from the youth in its lineup; 80 of its 165 goals have been scored by players 22 or younger, led by 19-year-old rookie Clayton Keller (19). Brendan Perlini, 22 (16), Christian Dvorak, 22 (14), and Christian Fisher, 20 (13) have reached double digits.

Video: LAK@ARI: Keller buries opening goal from in front

Second-half surge: Despite being out of the playoff picture for almost the entire season, first-year coach Rick Tocchet had the Coyotes playing better in the second half. After winning nine of their first 41 games (9-27-5), Arizona is 14-8-6 since, including 11-3-2 in its past 16 games.

Goaltending depth: Raanta is 15-15-6 with a 2.43 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and two shutouts in 38 starts. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and if he opts to sign elsewhere, Arizona has Darcy Kuemper, who was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 and signed a two-year contract. Kuemper has gone 12-3-4 with a 2.22 GAA, .927 save percentage and four shutouts in 20 starts this season, including 2-2-1, 2.61, .906 with one shutout in five starts with the Coyotes.

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