Last Wednesday, the Arizona Coyotes were officially eliminated from the playoffs. It was a long time coming, but with a loss last night it became impossible for the Coyotes to make the postseason.
It was a game like many others we have seen this season. The Coyotes did some good things, including getting offense from their defense and scoring on the power play. But it also had all of the problems we associate with the Coyotes this season.
But even without the allure of the postseason, there is still plenty of reasons for players to play well tonight. And for fans to watch.
Players still have tons of reasons to play their hearts out tonight.
Pride is always going to be the biggest factor. You don’t make it to becoming a professional athlete without a determination to win at all costs and never get up. Nobody wants to lose, especially in the last games of the season, when you have all summer to think of your mistakes.
Also, Six Coyotes players are pending unrestricted free agents, and four are restricted free agents, which means ten players are potentially playing for their next contract. People tend to remember how things end, and a good game now could make meaningful differences in both length and term for contracts.
And even for the players signed on for next season, they still want to play well. After missing the playoffs, we can expect General Manager Bill Armstrong to make some changes in the offseason. Players want to finish strong to show Armstrong, or anyone else, that they can be a part of a winning team.
The biggest reason for fans to watch may be the chance to see some of the Coyotes’ big prospects. The Desert Dogs have recalled Jan Jeník and Victor Söderström, who spent their first season in the AHL this season with the Tucson Roadrunners.
Neither player had a great season with the Roadrunners, but so did everyone else in Tucson. But both players seem like big pieces for the Coyotes moving forward, and it will be interesting to see how far they have to come.
If either player struggles, it is important to remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Clayton Keller struggled in his first three NHL games, finishing with two assists and as a -3. His next season was his breakout, and in 82 games, he had 23 goals and 42 assists.
The Coyotes’ regular season should end with games against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks probably deserve credit for killing the Coyotes’ season, with the two losses last week all but knocking them out of contention.
The Sharks were riding a ten-game losing streak going into Monday’s game against the Desert Dogs. Any team would be looking for a big game to snap that streak, and the Sharks were no exception.
After beating the Coyotes twice, all but ending their chance at the playoffs, the Sharks did not do well. Their last four games have been against the Colorado Avalanche, and they are 1-2-1 in that time.
Unlike the Coyotes, the Sharks will have one more game after the back-to-back. Next Wednesday, they host the Vegas Golden Knights. Neither team has much reason to leave anything on the ice though, since the season is all but over for both.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Jakob Chychrun - Chychrun comes into tonight riding a two-game goal streak and leading NHL defensemen with 18 goals. He has only two games left to hit the 20-goal plateau, which would be a huge accomplishment in a shortened season.
San Jose: Tomáš Hertl - Hertl was involved in all three Sharks goals in their last game, scoring two and assisting on the third. This season he has nine points against the Coyotes.
Arizona: Nick Schmaltz (questionable, head), Lawson Crouse (questionable, lower body), Antti Raanta (upper body), Tyler Pitlick (lower body), Jordan Gross (lower body)
Scottsdale: Joachim Blichfeld (questionable, upper body), Radim Simek (upper body), Matt Nieto (lower body)
Tonight's game is at 7:30 pm Arizona time and it will air on ESPN+, Bally Sports Arizona+, and Fox Sports 910 AM.