As we sit here on this Monday morning, a little less than two weeks until the Olympic Break, the Coyotes find themselves in a precarious spot, a few points out of the final Wild Card position in the Western Conference with games in hand on the teams in front, but teams nipping at their heels just behind. And although there have been reasons to not feel great about the Coyotes recently, the team is still very much in the hunt and one good run of games could get them firmly back into playoff position.
So without further ado, here are some things to discuss over the watercooler (aka the comments below) while you procrastinate today...
- It's been an oft-repeated theme around these parts, but the Coyotes current record of 24-18-10, for 58 points is quite on pace with how they performed the two previous full seasons through 52 games. In 2011-12 (Pacific Division title win, Western Conference Final appearance), the Coyotes were 24-21-8 for 56 points; in 2010-11 (first round sweep by Detroit), the Coyotes were 25-18-9 for 59 points.
- Of course, that 2011-12 team went on a complete tear in February (starting with game 52 ironically) going 11-0-1 to catapult them into the Pacific Division lead. While that type of a run can't be relied upon, the Coyotes can still easily make the playoffs with moderately better play over the final 30 games.
- The Coyotes are sending 5 players to the Olympics (Mike Smith, Zbynek Michalek, Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson). This is about middle of the road, and as for the teams in the Coyotes near vicinity in the standings: Los Angeles (6), Minnesota (5), Vancouver (7), Dallas (3), Nashville (2), and Winnipeg (4).
- So while GMDM won't get his wish of having his team get a long rest while the rest of the Conference gets tired out by the long travel and condensed schedule of the Olympics, the Coyotes shouldn't be too hurt coming out of the break either.
- Antoine Vermette recorded his second hat trick of the season in last night's losing effort. He is the 18th player in Coyotes history to record multiple hat tricks in a single season and the first since Peter Mueller in 2007-08.
- Far be it from me to argue with Coyotes color announcer, Tyson Nash, who succinctly put it--Vermette has gone from an unsung hero on the Coyotes to the hero. He leads the team in goals with 18, is tied for 6 in points with 30, is on the ice for every crucial draw (probably because of his 56.4% winning percentage), has 3 shorties in the past 4 games. Yeah, I'd say Vermette is a pretty big deal.
- Vermette's hat trick was also unique as he scored a goal at even strength, shorthanded, and on the power play. He was still a penalty shot and empty netter away from Mario Lemiuex's insane New Year's eve game from 1988.
- Zbynek Michalek is a glutton for punishment. Despite missing 22 games this season, he leads the team with 93 blocked shots; 20 clear of Derek Morris for second on the team (Morris himself has missed 12 games), and 25 clear of Keith Yandle in third. I may rag on David Schlemko a fair bit, but the fact that he's right behind Yandle despite playing in 15 fewer games is a sign of one thing that he's doing well.
- Speaking of Czechs, Radim Vrbata got off of the schneid the other night in Edmonton after going scoreless in his previous 13 games. Still, those questioning why Vrby was left off the Czech team need look no further than the fact that since his opening night hat trick, he has scored just 9 goals in 49 games. I'm still not sure Petr Nedved brings more to the table, but those aren't the numbers you want from your snipers at the Olympics.
- Good news for Vrby is that he's streaky and if he starts to get a little puck luck, he could go on a tear - the Coyotes are certainly hoping so.
- Finally, Shane Doan scored two goals on the Western Canada road trip, with the game tying goal a truly power move by the captain taking the play right to Luongo. Doan might finally be regaining his form after his illness and, as with Vrby, it couldn't come at a better time for the 'Yotes.
So those are my thoughts right now as I sit here on Monday Morning (actually as I type this it is very, very early Monday morning)...I probably have a lot more thoughts, but a lot less willingness to write them all out. Please keep the discussion going in the comments with your thoughts following the Coyotes' Western Canada road trip...