Phoenix Coyotes Blame Themselves for Missing Playoffs

Mark BrownContributor IApril 14, 2014

Phoenix captain Shane Doan said Coyotes were a playoff team.
Phoenix captain Shane Doan said Coyotes were a playoff team.Getty Images // Christian Petersen

There are plenty of fingers to point and blame to go around.

Why didn’t the Phoenix Coyotes make the playoffs and, as Claude Rains said in the classic film Casablanca, “Round up the usual suspects.”

After defeating the Dallas Stars 2-1 Sunday night to close out their season with a 37-30-15 record, the consensus around the Coyotes’ locker room was simply, “We were not good enough.”

Perhaps, but good teams usually find ways to win and the Coyotes found ways to leave critical standing points on the table.

With only one victory in regulation from March 25 until they concluded their season, the Coyotes suffered a seven-game losing streak of momentous consequence. That included four losses in regulation time and three in shootouts. Missing the playoffs by two points, they can look back to losing important points in games which they should have won.

The bottom line is the Coyotes did not control vital games down the stretch and now must spend the next five months figuring out what happened.

“We were not good enough,” said captain Shane Doan. “At the start of the season, I thought this team was good enough to make the playoffs, and I still feel that way. You can’t lose points at home, even if it’s a few, because the points add up and make a difference.”

The turning point took place in early January. Beginning with a 2-0 shutout by Columbus at home, the Coyotes proceeded to drop six of seven games and managed only two two-game winning streaks the rest of the season.

There was also a three-game winning streak from March 15 to March 20, and the two-game winning streaks occurred from March 4 to 6 and Jan. 16 to 18. They also put consecutive wins together on March 10 and 11, but the game on the 10th was a 4-3 overtime victory against the Lightning in Tampa Bay.

In dropping six of seven games from Jan. 2 to Jan. 14, they managed nine goals in the six defeats, and that lack of scoring throughout the season was a vital factor in the Coyotes’ demise.

With losing comes lack of scoring, and that was a contributing reason down the stretch.

During the seven-game losing streak from late March to early April, which knocked the wind out of the Coyotes’ sails, they managed seven goals in the seven games and were shut out twice.

“Frankly, we just lost too many games,” was the explanation from forward Mikkel Boedker. "Personally, for me, it was a good year but not for the guys in this room. For next season, we just have to score more goals.”

Injuries were also a contributing factor, but teams generally use the injury thing as an excuse. Goalie Mike Smith did not play the final 10 games because of a leg injury and finished with a 27-21-10 record and 2.64 goals-against average for 62 games.

For the Coyotes, the lack of scoring was evident, and Phoenix had only three 20-goal scorers. Plus, reaching the plateau of a 20-goal scorer was not terribly significant.

That’s because the three scorers barely reached the 20-goal level.

Center Antoine Vermette topped the team with 24 goals, Doan ended with 23 and Martin Hanzal scored 20. Through many games, the Coyotes scored “by committee” and could not rely on any one player to provide a sustained production.

“This was an interesting season,” said coach Dave Tippett after the final game. “There were some good things, and things we could not sustain. You look at the close games and we couldn’t get over the hump. Those are frustrating because you end up two points out of the playoffs and look back on some of those games.”

Now, Tippett, his coaching staff and the front-office management have the next five months to truly scrutinize what went wrong.

Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.


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