The Olympics are nearing their conclusion, meaning that the mad scramble for playoff positioning and last gasps of success is about to begin. The Coyotes find themselves stuck squarely in the middle of fighting for a playoff push and almost finding themselves fading from contention. The last seven plus weeks of the schedule are going to be grueling, exhilarating and a roller coaster of emotions.
With that in mind, here are 21 quick thoughts on the rest of the way concerning these Coyotes.
- Currently, the Coyotes find themselves in a dead heat with the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot. They both have 64 points with identical 27-21-10 records. Dallas currently has the edge with one more ROW win and also beat Phoenix twice in the week leading up to the Olympic break. The last game of the season is April 13th, at home, against Dallas. That game could be slightly important.
- The Coyotes have six games remaining against teams grouped near them in the standings: two with Winnipeg, and one each with Minnesota, Vancouver, Nashville and the aforementioned Stars. Four of those games are in Glendale.
- The Coyotes current record against those five teams: 4-5-2 with two shootout wins.
- The Coyotes haven't won more than two games in a row since a five-game winning streak from October 26 through November 5.
- Shane Doan's numbers before the Rocky Mountain Fever: 27 games, 12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points, 6 power play goals, a +/- rating of +1. Coyotes record: 15-7-5
- Since returning from the illness: 18 games, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points, 0 ppg, -5. Coyotes record since Doan's absence began: 11-14-5. Stupid ticks.
- With two weeks to get back into shape without playing, here's hoping the rest of the season is much closer to pre-illness Doan or the Coyotes are in trouble.
- Martin Hanzal only had one assist in four games during the Olympics, but when the Czechs' backs were against the wall in the 3rd period against the US, he played on the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec. That says an awful lot about Marty and hopefully that results in good things for him the rest of the way.
- Zbynek Michalek had an assist in five games in Sochi and played the third most minutes among Czech defenders. Considering he saw no power play time, that's not too bad.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson played the fewest minutes of all the Swedish defenseman in Sochi but did add three assists. Hopefully it's not an injury bugging the young stud, but considering this could have been a breakout showcase for him, it is a little concerning how little he's been used. OEL didn't even dress for the Swedes in the semifinal against Finland. Gulp
- Lauri Korpikoski may be the Coyote who had the best Olympic performance. The Korpedo is the only Yote to tally a goal so far, scoring two actually, while playing the fourth most minutes amongst Finnish forwards. He was dynamic in both ends throughout the tourney and the Coyotes could certainly use this Korpi the rest of the way.
- Hopefully all the Coyotes Olympic skaters return from Sochi with their health intact and use their Olympic experience to propel themselves even higher for the rest of the 2014 season.
- The final Coyote Olympic representative didn't see any ice time in Sochi, as expected, but hopefully Mike Smith used the two weeks of practice with some of the world's greatest players and the resulting non-playing time as a chance to recharge his batteries and prep for the end of season run. Smitty was fantastic in the Coyotes past four games, with a GAA under 2.00 and a save percentage above .930. The Coyotes need Smith to be at his best to make the run necessary to make the playoffs.
- Where has Radim Vrbata's scoring touch gone? Seriously, where???
- Can we find anyone who's not a career journeyman to man Mike Ribeiro's second wing? I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is, and it ain't David Moss and Rob Klinkhammer skating with Ribs.
- Brandon Gormley was recalled earlier this week. Here's hoping it's not just as a temporary practice body and it's to give him a legitimate NHL opportunity. It's time for the Coyotes to know what they have in him currently and what they expect of him moving forward. He's not going to achieve that in Portland any longer.
- Trades would be nice, but do we really want to see the Coyotes give up future assets to get swept by Anaheim in the opening round?
- If the Coyotes are looking at a trade, I would like to see them focus on a blockbuster move for a dynamic, young forward with a contract in place for the next three years or longer. Those don't grow on trees, but that's what the Coyotes need more than a stopgap rental. Long shot, but what about Jordan Eberle?
- Speaking of Oilers forwards, Ales Hemsky was mighty impressive for the Czech Republic in Sochi. I know I just railed against a rental piece, but Hemsky was pretty darn good for the Oil in their Finals run in 2004 and would certainly not look out of place lining up on Ribeiro's wing.
- Andy Miele please. Please. Pretty please, with a cherry on top. 47 points in 48 games is good. The fact that the next best total for the squad in Portland is 33 points shows how much Miele is driving the offense down there. We could certainly use his creativity on a real line, like say on the wing with Hanzal and Vrbata. No 4th line minutes for Andy, let's really give him a shot and see what happens.
- Finally, the make or break point for this team will be upon them pretty quick. The month of March is brutal, with 15 games in 31 days, including a grueling 20 day stretch where the play four in a row out east from the 8th through the 13th, come home for a game against Calgary, go to LA, come back for two home games before going back out east for three, starting with a Monday/Tuesday back to back against the Rangers and Penguins. Those 11 games will more than likely determine the Coyotes' fate and realistically, the Yotes probably need to win seven of those games to keep pace with Dallas. That's not going to be easy.
That's it. 21 thoughts for the rest of the season. The stretch run is upon us. Here. We. Go.