In the Western Conference, there’s three playoff slots that need to be filled.
Will the Phoenix Coyotes be one of those last three teams to make it in before the door to the playoffs is shut and sealed?
It’s been a strange season indeed in the NHL, and for the Coyotes more specifically.
If they’d won the season series with the Los Angeles Kings, then they’d be sitting in first place right now, and third in the conference, instead of in second, and seventh in the West.
Very odd indeed…
But it is what it is, and the team knows it is very much in the playoff hunt right now. They just need to handle their business, and hope for a little bit of help from other teams to get in.
But it starts from within the locker room first and foremost.
“We control our own destiny,” said captain Shane Doan. “We know that if we win we’re ok, and that’s really been the focus.”
The Coyotes are 1-8 against the Blue Jackets, Blues and Wild, who are their final three opponents standing in their postseason way.
Of course numbers don’t mean a whole lot when the puck is dropped and it’s time for battle.
The team is well aware of their struggles against these teams, but they need to block all that out and play the way they are capable of playing, and it will work itself out.
A big key to the Coyotes success this year has been goalie Mike Smith, who has been having a career year.
Smith – recently named team MVP – is like a vault right now, letting absolutely nothing get by him.
In his last two starts against San Jose and Anaheim, Smith turned away 82 shots total. Smith hasn’t allowed a goal in almost 160 minutes, dating back to March 24.
Stingy, but exactly how you want your goalie to play.
Smith credits his parents with instilling in him a strong work ethic, which is paying dividends right now.
“It takes a lot of hard work to get to the NHL, but it takes a lot to stay here and compete at a high level for a whole season,” Smith said. “I’ve taken a lot of pride in that.”
Let’s hope for the Coyotes sake, Smith never comes down from the cloud he’s on right now, because great goaltending is key for making the playoffs, going deep in the playoffs and winning a Stanley Cup championship.