SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – There are a host of things the Phoenix Coyotes could do over the next two weeks as they chase a far-flung playoff dream. They could root for the right teams to win out-of-town games. They could say silent prayers. They could deliver impassioned speeches before every game.
The problem: None of those methods will work. The only ironclad tactic the Coyotes have at their disposal is both simple in concept and difficult in application.
“If we win every game, I’m sure that we’re in, so I guess that we’re still in control, but it’s going to be tough,” captain Shane Doan said. “The walls are getting tighter and tighter. If we could find a way to get three points in a game, that would be nice, but only two at a time, I guess.”
The Coyotes probably don’t need to go 7-0 to make the playoffs, but they will likely have to secure 12 of a possible 14 points down the stretch — whether that comes in a 6-1 finish or a 5-0-2 finish — to reach the 55 points coach Dave Tippett believes it will take to make the postseason.
Everyone on this team understands how monumental that task will be with a three-game road trip upcoming against St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit after Monday’s home game against San Jose. Falter once in these next four games and the Coyotes will be riding the razor’s edge. Lose three points and the season is probably over given the Coyotes’ poor standing in tiebreakers with the Red Wings and Stars.
That’s the bad news, but in that dire forecast, Doan also sees a positive.
“Obviously, it’s not fun in the fact that you’re in the situation that you’re in and you’re disappointed that you’ve put yourself in this situation,” Doan said. “The fun part is that every game means so much and you have to be ready to play.”
The Coyotes do have a recent parallel to draw upon. Last season, they won their final five games to clinch their first Pacific Division title and the third seed in the Western Conference. Before that streak, they sat in ninth place.
Whether history is a guide or just a convenient talking point remains to be seen. Last season’s stretch run was nowhere near as daunting because the point deficit wasn’t as great as today’s (four points) and the schedule was far easer, with three home games and three non-playoff teams on the slate.
“You’ve just got to take care of your own business,” coach Dave Tippett said. “When you can go out and all you can do is think about what we have to do to win our next game to keep ourselves in the race, that’s what you have to do.”