Monday Morning Musings: Phoenix's playoff hopes stay alive

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

What do the Coyotes need to do to make the playoffs?

Win.

OK, OK, I'll be more specific.

With just four games left in the 2013-14 season, the Phoenix Coyotes find themselves one point back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, facing the harsh reality of potentially watching the playoffs from the couch for a second consecutive season.

The Coyotes do not need anymore help to get in, but must take care of business; something that may prove difficult for a team that has lost four in a row and six of the last eight.

- The Dallas Stars and Coyotes play three games before the season finale against each other in six days. Their schedules are actually quite similar. They both play Nashville and Columbus during the week and play a top Western Conference team in the second to last game of the season. The Coyotes host San Jose, the Stars host St. Louis.

- Dallas has the advantage of not leaving home until travelling to Phoenix to end the season, while the Coyotes have to head East for their next two games.

- Another interesting quirk is that Dallas is already losing Wednesday's game against Columbus. The Blue Jackets are up 1-0 in the game postponed due to Rich Peverley's heart condition. Columbus out-shot Dallas 9-4 and is out-hitting them 9-3. Those stats, minus Nathan Horton's goal, will be wiped out as the League has decided to play a full 60-minute game that starts 1-0.

- Fun fact about that postponed game: Horton will have scored a goal in a game he doesn't even play in.

- The Coyotes just need to keep pace with the Stars over the next three games to make the season finale meaningful. In other words, Phoenix needs to stay within one point of the Stars or else fan appreciation night will be the last day the boys in Sedona Red take the ice until training camp. Dallas holds the first four tie-breakers, so falling behind by even two points is catastrophic for Phoenix's playoff hopes.

- Phoenix, in the midst of a playoff push, has not won a home game nearly three weeks, losing the last four (0-2-2).

- Goal scoring is a huge part of the problem as the Coyotes have averaged only 1.5 goals per game in those four home games and 1.75 goals per game (non-shootout) in the last eight games overall (2-3-3).

- If the Coyotes do make it in, it's likely they would be one of just two teams to earn a playoff spot with a negative goal differential (Detroit being the other).

- The last team to win a playoff series with a negative regular season goal differential - 2011-12 Washington Capitals. The last Western Conference team - 1997-98 Edmonton Oilers.

- However there is some hope for the winner of the final playoff spot. St. Louis, San Jose and Anaheim are playing .500 hockey as of late and could fall victim to a wild card team that gets hot to end the regular season. Likely? No, but stranger things have happened.

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