If the Arizona Coyotes are serious about getting past the Nashville Predators, then they will need to overcome themselves to do it.
On paper, the Coyotes have a team that should be worthy of a deep run in the playoffs, but they seem to get in their own way and make mistakes that could see them knocked out in the qualifying round.
The Coyotes have a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Phil Kessel. Brad Richardson also has experience of lifting the cup. They even have a fairly recent Hart Trophy winner in Taylor Hall.
They boast arguably the best goaltending tandem in the entire NHL and have a defensive corps that is extremely effective, but somehow the Coyotes don’t seem to reach their potential - as evidenced in the team’s 4-1 warm-up loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
A slow start and mistakes, such as the short-handed goal that Vegas scored against them, lead to Rick Tocchet’s team struggling to defeat teams that, on paper, the Coyotes should be far closer to.
It’s been well-documented that the team struggles offensively, but they should be far better with the likes of Hall, Kessel, Clayton Keller and Christian Dvorak in the top six.
Equally, there is no reason for the Coyotes to struggle defensively when that is almost the entire basis for the team’s structure and system under Tocchet.
The defensive corps must provide better cover for Darcy Kuemper or Antti Raanta when they take on the Predators, not allowing poor turnovers - especially if the team is on the power play.
They must get stuck into the games from the get-go, battling along the boards and retaining possession quickly with a strong forecheck, otherwise the Predators, who have arguably the stronger of the two offenses, can become overpowering.
The Arizona Coyotes are a good team on paper, with a great blend of veteran experience, elite goaltending, solid defending, and some impressive younger players, including Barrett Hayton, who looks to have taken the next step in his development this past training camp.
It’s time for the Coyotes to get out of their own heads, focus on doing what they do well and put this long-standing demon to bed - progressing further into the playoffs for the first time since 2012.