There's no small amount of relief in the fact that the 2014-15 season for the Arizona Coyotes is finally over. To say it's been a rough year for players and fans alike is a massive understatement.
Yet this recap is not going to be focused so much on the 2-1 loss the team suffered at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night at Gila River Arena, or on the misery that was the 2014-15 year. There will be plenty of time to unpack what went wrong in the offseason.
For now, let's talk a bit more about what went right.
The Arizona Coyotes, though they struggled mightily all year to both score goals and keep the puck out of their own net, never quit on the season. Even when the playoffs were well beyond reach, the Coyotes kept a lot of games close, and even managed to steal a point or two away from good teams (you don't think Los Angeles wants the point they left on the table against Arizona back in October, or the two points Florida conceded in Glendale this season?)
Mike Smith's late season resurgence continued all the way to the final horn; he made 38 saves on 40 shots against Anaheim tonight and was the first star of the game. Sam Gagner scored his 15th goal of the season tonight to lead all forwards on the team and give his club a chance to tie the game in the third period. He could become a very solid contributor for this team moving forward.
None of this is meant to whitewash the difficulty of this season. The Coyotes gave up a goal apiece to Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg before scoring one of their own. The project the team is about to embark on is a challenging one, and its architect (Don Maloney) and foreman (Dave Tippett) may not be around to see it completed.
But if the Coyotes find the right combination of skilled prospects, and they show the heart and effort that Shane Doan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Kyle Chipchura have shown all season, then this team has the potential to be something special.
For now, thanks for sticking around for the ride, Coyotes fans. We'll see you at the Draft Lottery.
Our Three Stars of the Game
- 3rd Star - Frederik Andersen - 23 saves on 24 shots. He may have earned the right to start the postseason for the Ducks tonight.
- 2nd Star - Ryan Getzlaf - He had a goal and an assist on the night. The Ducks are going to need his size and skill against the Jets.
- 1st Star - Mike Smith - In what seems to be a running theme for the months of March and April, Arizona is not in this game without their goaltender. He made 38 big saves, and hopefully created some positive momentum for himself going into next season.
- For Anaheim's perspective, check out Anaheim Calling.
- Despite being considered questionable tonight, Shane Doan did in fact play.
- Despite chasing the game for most of the night, every Coyote logged at least 10 minutes.
- Clean sheet for both teams' penalty kills: Arizona and Anaheim were 0 for 3 on the power play.
- Dave Moss assisted on Gagner's goal to bring his point total on the year to 12. Considering how his season started, that's not a bad finish at all.
- Not a good night in the advanced stats department: the Coyotes were out shot-attempted 69-50.
- Attendance: 15,733. Average this season: 13,345.