Despite their recently slip in consistency, the Arizona Coyotes are still hanging onto a wild card spot in the Western Conference standings.
A 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals, keeping Alex Ovechkin from reaching the 700 goals mark, helps keep the Coyotes firmly in the hunt for the playoffs with 66 points.
This sees the Coyotes hold a three-point gap between them and the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets, but more consistency in the final 21 games of the season will be needed to keep Rick Tocchet’s team in the post-season conversation.
While it is better to have points already in the bank as opposed to having games in hand, the Predators and Jets will have several opportunities to make up ground on the Coyotes.
The Predators (57) have played four games fewer than Arizona (61) while the Jets have played two fewer (59). The Coyotes’ 61 games played is the joint-highest amount in the entire NHL, alongside the Montreal Canadiens.
Over their past ten games, the Coyotes have a pretty poor record of 3-4-3, seeing them slip into a playoff position battle that had almost looked solidified at the turn of the year.
The Predators are looking to be on the rise with a 6-4-0 record in that same ten-game stretch, making them the most threatening team below the Coyotes at present, with the Jets having a number of struggles themselves, holding a 4-5-1 record and losing their last two.
The Coyotes need to start using home-ice to their advantage when teams visit the desert, claiming points in front of their own fans to help boost spirits and get the team back to the high times of December.
Tocchet himself needs to figure out why the team has been playing so inconsistently, overcoming a team such as Washington while losing to the tanking Ottawa Senators, and work out how to get things back on track.
The trade deadline could become a factor in the Coyotes’ success over the rest of the season, with scoring still a concern and injuries to some key players leaving the team needing to rely on some AHL call ups.
If John Chayka believes more needs to be done to help the team, the Arizona Coyotes could become buyers at the deadline. Until then, they will have some breathing room knowing that they are still inside the wild card spots, but if results don’t improve then that could change very quickly.