At this point, the Arizona Coyotes' playoff chances are barely even on life support. Three consecutive one-goal losses have cost the Coyotes critical opportunities to keep pace with Nashville, Colorado, and San Jose in the playoff picture.
As Arizona rolls into the City of Brotherly Shove to take on the Philadelphia Flyers, the team is in must-win mode; if they can't find a way to get a point or two in this afternoon game, then they may as well kiss any chance of making the playoffs goodbye.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Points||60 (5th Pacific)||65 (7th Metropolitan)|
|Goals For||2.70 (10th)||2.43 (T-24th)|
|Goals Against||3.03 (30th)||2.62 (T-15th)|
|Power Play||18.9% (14th)||18.4% (T-18th)|
|Penalty Kill||77.9% (25th)||78.9% (24th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||46.6% (T-28th)||50.1% (17th)|
|PDO||100.7 (T-5th)||100.5 (T-10th)|
View from Arizona
Losing is tough. Losing by one is tougher. But losing by one multiple times in a row is incredibly tough to swallow.
The Coyotes lost 3-2 to the Florida Panthers in a game where the Panthers exposed Arizona's neutral zone defense by building up a head of steam and blowing by Arizona's defenders who are still skating backwards. The Panthers burned the Coyotes multiple times that way in the second period, and Arizona was not able to recover in time.
Where Arizona goes from here is a very open question. Mikkel Boedker's trade is imminent. Louis Domingue got shaken up in the third period (but finished the game). Arizona's defense is not getting any better at keeping the puck out of the net. No trade is going to fix Arizona's biggest problems.
But still, the Coyotes have hung around considerably longer than anybody expected when the season began. Their offense is still explosive enough to cover for many of their shortcomings. And Arizona has put up a lot of fight in every single one of their losses this road trip. All they need is a bounce or two to go their way for their fortunes to turn.
View from Philadelphia
For more on the Flyers, check out Broad Street Hockey
The Dave Hakstol Era in Philadelphia got off to a rough start, but the Flyers have since righted the ship somewhat, and are just three points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia is in a tough spot where the need to keep and develop future assets is balanced against the need to take advantage of the most productive years of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn.
Philadelphia has received an unexpected boost from Michal Neuvirth, who is 14-7-4 with a .927 save percentage and three shutouts in 24 games. Given how frustrating Philadelphia's goaltending situation has been over the years, stability at the netminder position is a welcome sight in Philly.
Can the Flyers make the playoffs this season? Sure. But with Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov on the way soon, the Flyers can afford to play the long game.
Keys to the Game
1. Stronger Neutral Zone Play - Florida's ability to effortlessly skate through the neutral zone was a massive problem for the Coyotes all night long on Thursday night. That absolutely has to change if the Coyotes are going to keep Philadelphia out of their zone.
2. Give Oliver Ekman-Larsson Space and Time - Florida's penalty kill attacked OEL early and often. The one time they didn't was also the one time he scored. If Arizona's forwards can stretch Philadelphia's defensive shell out and force OEL's man to have to play multiple angles, they will give their best player more chances to do what he does beset.
3. Play Desperate - Arizona's playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. They cannot afford to play conservatively or tentatively in the offensive end. The Coyotes need to attack the Flyers' defense early and often. And they need to get points
Players to Watch
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has 47 points on the year, which is six ahead of Max Domi for the team lead. He is an integral part of Arizona's entire system, and probably the only untouchable player on Arizona's roster.
Shayne Gostisbehere has played 18 fewer games than his Flyers teammates. He is fifth on the team scoring list anyways. The 2012 third round selection has more than exceeded expectations this year, and has proven to be a surprise entry in the Calder Trophy race.
Anders Lindback and Joe Vitale are done for the season, while Boyd Gordon and Mike Smith remain on injured reserve.
The Flyers are without Michael Del Zotto for the remainder of the year, while Jordan Weal is on injured reserve until March. Jakub Voracek has been ruled out for today's game, while Claude Giroux is listed as questionable.
Today's game is an early one, as it gets underway at 11 AM Arizona time. There's no local broadcast, so you'll have to content yourself with either NHL.TV or Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.