The Dallas Stars suffered a tough 2-1 loss to the hands of the Vancouver Canucks tonight, setting up the perfect opportunity for the Phoenix Coyotes to not only get back into the top 8, but launch into the third seed with the Pacific Division.
There’s just eight games left for the Stars, and there’s plenty of reasons why the wheels may fall off at the end. But don’t expect them to miss the playoffs by any means. Here’s the breakdown:
Mike Smith has been one of the many reasons for the Coyotes to remain contenders in the Pacific Division. Phoenix has the odds to take the No. 3 seed for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Dallas Stars: Five of eight games are against teams with a lower point total, including two against the Flames, and two against the struggling San Jose Sharks and one against the Edmonton Oilers.
Phoenix Coyotes: They may have just seven games left, but the odds are stacked in their favour. Five of these teams are under-performing the Dave Tippett’s men. The final stretch includes two against the Sharks, and one against the Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks.
Five of the final seven are also home games. Phoenix is 18-12-6 on the ice in Glendale, Ariz.
Calgary Flames: With tonight’s 3-2 overtime loss, the Flames have seven games to go. The Anaheim Ducks are their only under-performing opponent in the stretch. The others: Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings and the Dallas Stars twice.
The Coyotes are 4-5-3 on this month, so far. It’s not great, but they’ve been able to get the additional overtime or shoot out loss point, and it’s made a difference.
Guys like Raffi Torres and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have been able to step up lately. Meanwhile, goaltender Mike Smith achieved a first-ever 20-goal and 30-goal season this year. Despite a rough patch earlier this month, he’s been able to recompose during the season. Much different from the Smith we saw in Tampa Bay in previous years.
Final result: The Coyotes have what it takes to rebound in the division race, and tonight’s 3-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche is a good place to start. Look for San Jose to push with two games apiece against the Coyotes, Stars and Flames. There are too many variables out there, but if the Sharks can grab four of those six, they may compete with the Avalanche and Stars for the bottom two spots. Meanwhile, the Flames have the highest odds in terms of schedule, and lowest expectations to add. They may be on the outside by season’s end.
Matthew Wilson is editor of Center Ice Chat. Follow him on Twitter @Mattjw24. Be sure to also Like us on Facebook and to Follow our Tumblr page. If you'd like to contribute, or appear as a guest columnist, please email us at CenterIceChat@gmail.com.