Coyotes Looking To Start Good Luck Streak With NHL Playoffs!

by Seth Askelson

The luck of the Arizona Coyotes is tricky ever since the team entered bankruptcy in 2008. There has
been good luck, like in 2012 where a team of former stars were brought in and came three wins away
from the Stanley Cup Finals. There has been plenty of bad luck to go around as well, such as potential
owners bail out from 2010-2012, to finish second-to-last in 2014-2015 and getting a chance to draft a
generational talent, only to be pushed to third by a lottery system that was introduced because of the
team that eventually won said lottery.

Oh, and do not forget, Auston Matthews was born two days after the cutoff date of September 15, to be
eligible for the 2015 draft. So nature, a lottery, and a tough pick at 3, kept the Coyotes from getting one
of the league’s current top stars.

The luck in 2020 seemed to truly benefit the Arizona hockey franchise this time around. The shutdown
of the season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic allowed the Coyotes to get into the reimagined
postseason and fight for a Stanley Cup. Even if Arizona loses its play-in five-game series to the Nashville
Predators, they will have a 12.5 percent chance at the first overall pick.

The Coyotes are nearly in a win-win situation. Beating the Predators will allow the Coyotes to gear up for
a Stanley Cup run, in which the talent both on the ice and behind the bench makes it a possibility. If they
lose, they could be getting the number one overall pick and a future star in Alexis Lafreniere.
But, Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman reminded Coyotes fans of something that was
quickly forgotten during this time. During a press conference last week, Yzerman mention that teams
have not been able to do the testing with draft prospects they normally would have because of the
pandemic.

Then Yzerman added, “every team but one, actually.”

Of course, the former Red Wings star player turned star executive was referencing the investigation on
the Coyotes allegedly administering additional, illegal testing to draft prospects. There has not been any
punishment handed out yet, but there is a possibility that it could result in the loss of draft picks.
How fitting would it be if the Coyotes get the number one draft pick, after years of bad lottery luck, just
for the punishment to be handed down and lose the opportunity?

Who will be better – forwards or goaltenders?

In baseball, the general rule is that pitchers will be ahead of hitters when Spring Training starts. Pitchers
report earlier, and hitters usually have not experienced live pitching since October. When training camps
start up for the 24 teams who will be continuing the season, a similar theory when it comes to skaters
and goaltenders could ring true.

Coyotes forward Phil Kessel joined local media on Tuesday, and was asked if the skaters would be
farther ahead that the goaltenders since it has been about four months since an NHL goalie has seen
game-speed action.

“That could come into factor, but I don’t know,” Kessel said. “Obviously these goalies are pretty good
nowadays, so we’ll see.”

While games will truly show if that is the case, a four month hiatus from game action in the middle of
the season will be a huge adjustment for everyone. An offseason for most is between four to five
months, but those players come back to preseason games, not contests for the Stanley Cup.

“I think it’s going to be weird for everyone,” Kessel said of returning to play. “It’s going to be the guys
who can get to game pace and feel the best out there the quickest.”

Another group of players that should be ready to go is those that were injured before the hiatus.
Outside of year-long recoveries, most players who were even expected to be out for the normally-
scheduled playoffs could find their way back to the ice for this year’s march toward the Cup.

The Coyotes have been plagued by injuries during the John Chayka-Rick Tocchet era, and Kessel was
unfortunately no exception this year. The 32-year-old forward had played full regular seasons in nine
consecutive years, and all 70 for the Coyotes this year, but did compete with ailments that may have
given him more issues that in years past.

“Obviously, I had a tough year,” Kessel said. “I think it’s probably my most injuries I’ve had is this year,
but that’s no excuse. It’s one of those years, and obviously I’m going to look to never have that again.
I’ve never had a year like that, so I’m looking to bounce back.”

Playoff experience is always lauded for a Stanley Cup contender, whether teams publicly acknowledge it
or not. The Coyotes have a handful of players who have played in the playoffs, and a few that have
reached the ultimate goal of raising the Stanley Cup.

Kessel and Tocchet are two members that have a championship ring, and they have done it together
twice. Both know how hard it is to not only win once, but twice in a row, and could be the most
important factor in the Coyotes making a run at its first ever Stanley Cup.

“I think it matters,” Kessel said of playoff experience. “Guys that have been there in those spots, they
know what to expect, they know what to do.”

“To be honest, it’s a different level of hockey,” Kessel said. “It’s a faster, more crisp game. It’s a fun time
of year.”

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