Once the promising underdog, Arizona has fallen since we last looked at them.
Just two months ago, the Arizona Coyotes were everybody’s favorite underdog. They sat in second place in the Pacific Division with 48 points, and while they were certainly not the cream of the NHL crop, a certain SQ writer said “their division rivals might just be bad enough, or far away enough, to keep them” in a playoff spot.
Oh, how things have changed.
The Coyotes are now in fifth in the Pacific with 62 points. And they’re 10 points away from the second Wild Card spot, and 18 away from the last Pacific spot. What happened?
As simple as it sounds, they just haven’t been playing very good hockey all season long, and now it’s finally catching up to them.
When we last looked at the Coyotes, they had some major sustainability issues. The were underwater in both possession stats, were on the wrong side of overall and high danger scoring chances, had a bloated PDO, and had one of the worst penalty kills in the game. That hasn’t changed much at all.
Since that article was published on Jan. 14, the Coyotes are ninth-worst in high danger chances at 48.8 percent high danger chances for. Overall, they’re just underwater at 49.1, suggesting that this has been a bigger issue since we last looked at them. They’ve also posted 48.1 Corsi For percentage and a 47.8 Fenwick For percentage in that time frame, compounding their season stats, which are both third-worst in the league. Their penalty kill has gotten slightly worse, dropping to 77.5 from 77.8. Arizona’s PDO has also dropped from 101.5 to 100.3, which, to the disappointment of Arizona fans, is their statistically sustainable level.
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The drop-off isn’t just at the team level. Max Domi, a Calder contender and one of the team’s offensive bright spots, has just four goals in the 23 games since that article was published (which includes a stretch of 14 goal-less games). Anthony Duclair, another promising young rookie, has only five goals since Jan. 14, and his shooting percentage remains very bloated at 20.2. The young guns were a big part of Arizona’s surprising first half, but are now a big part of the disappointing second half.
This isn’t just about the Coyotes sputtering as the season went on. The one thing that could’ve saved them was the terrible Pacific Division. It was well known that the Coyotes were playing above their heads, but the resurgence of the Anaheim Ducks hasn’t helped much either.
At the time of that last article, the Ducks had only 41 points. They’ve doubled that since then, and now sit in first place with 83 points (one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings). The Ducks had the league’s lowest PDO at 96.7 at the time, which gave everyone strong reason to believe they would eventually bounce back.
From the start of the season to Jan 13., they managed a 41.3 even strength goals for percentage. In the time since, that number has bounced up to 58.9. Largely because of this, they’ve won 19 of 23 games, including win streaks of six and 11 games, and have stormed past the Coyotes.
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Anaheim is finally playing the hockey that was expected of them. The San Jose Sharks have maintained their solid play, posting similar possession stats since Jan. 14, and staying in third place. At the time, it looked like the Coyotes’ best chance at a playoff spot was the fact that the competition had been so underwhelming. Just like their advanced stats, however, the competition eventually caught up to them.
Despite the fact that they have a game in hand on the Minnesota Wild (the second Wild Card team), it’s looking bleaker and bleaker for the one-time Cinderella team. They have to jump over two teams and the Wild to get back to a playoff spot.
The Coyotes season so far has been a classic case of fool’s gold. At the surface level, it looked like the team had what it took to shock the league and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With just 16 games left to play, however, the causes for concern that have surrounded the team all season look to have finally doomed the Coyotes.
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