Coyotes Playoff Push Continues

By Andrew Bell

How did Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet describe Tuesday’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks?

“I liked our first period…After that, it was just garbage to be honest with you,” Tocchet said.

Tocchet’s blunt words rang loudly after his team fell 3-1 at home on Tuesday night to snap a six-game win streak. The loss occurred against an Anaheim Ducks team that is among the bottom two teams in the Pacific Division.

From start to finish, the performance just fell flat for the Coyotes. In the hunt for a wild card playoff position amongst five other teams, the effort was deflating in what has otherwise been one of the best stretches of hockey this season.

“We didn’t get energy out of some guys that need to start to play,” Tocchet said. “If we are going to go anywhere, we need these guys to go, and I didn’t feel any urgency from some guys.”

Nonetheless, a loss against the Ducks isn’t the end of the world for the Coyotes, who are still just three points out of a spot for the postseason. They will need to dust themselves off quickly as the Pacific Division leading Calgary Flames come to town on Thursday. With 16 games left to determine the Coyotes’ postseason fate, here are a couple things that you might not otherwise know about the final two spots in the wild card race.

1. Tuesday’s loss hurts for the time being. The other teams (Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche) that the Coyotes are competing with for the final wild card spots all picked up at least one of a possible two points (Each win in the NHL is two points. An OT/Shootout loss is one point) on Tuesday. The Stars beat the Rangers 1-0, the Avalanche came back after trailing to defeat the Detroit Red Wings by one goal, and the Wild took one point in a shootout loss against the Nashville Predators. That leaves the Coyotes three points out of a spot for the postseason. Right now, Dallas has 73 points, Minnesota has 72, Colorado has 70, and Arizona has 69. If the postseason started today, the Coyotes would be out.

“We are a couple points out now and every game is important,” said Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse, who scored Arizona’s lone goal against the Ducks. “We can’t take shifts off, we can’t take games off and we need everyone in this locker room…It’s a big learning experience.”

2.Big Picture. Tuesday hurts the Coyotes, but it’s not the end of the world with a lot of friendly fire on tap. Unlike some playoff races where teams are in a hunt but they don’t go at each other head-to-head, that will be the opposite for the four teams in a wild card brawl. The Coyotes still have a game in hand against Colorado and Minnesota, and those two meetings will be back-to-back on March 29 and 31. Colorado also plays Dallas twice over the next week, and they play the Wild on March 19. All of the teams will get multiple opportunities to behead one another.

Those are a couple things to know as the crucial stretch to the postseason continues. In what has been a rough year for Arizona professional sports teams thus far, the Coyotes are the closest team to sniffing a playoff berth. It’s time to take notice with 16 games left.

“We are going to stick together as a team in here. We know what we have to do to get better,” said Crouse after Tuesday’s defeat. “We just can’t let it happen again.”

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