What went wrong: Phoenix Coyotes

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Lots of people want to focus on what happens next with the Phoenix Coyotes and whether or not they’re heading to Canada next season, but let’s stay focused here and take a look at just what happened to them in the playoffs. After all, getting swept from the playoffs takes the right amount of doing things wrong on your own and getting outplayed by your opponent.

For the Coyotes, there were a few things that happened that made them look like cowering mortals against the Superman-like Detroit Red Wings. Here’s a look at a few things that went colossally wrong for Phoenix in what may or may not have been their final playoff series in the desert of Arizona.

1. Getting off on the wrong foot

When getting swept out of the playoffs it’s the first step that sometimes counts the most. The Coyotes first step in each of the four games was the wrong one. The Coyotes scored the first goal of the game in just Game 1 and then proceeded to not intimidate the Red Wings the rest of the way giving up four straight goals before losing that game 4-2. In the following three games, the Coyotes gave up the first goal of the game and found themselves trying to claw back into the game. While they were able to sort of do that in Game 4, they ultimately came unglued in the third period. Establishing control and maintaining it were major problems for the Coyotes and while they showed flashes of valiance, it didn’t turn into wins.

2. Ilya Bryzgalov was miserable

Without Ilya Bryzgalov the Coyotes don’t make the playoffs, flat out. During the regular season he was lights out in goal sporting 2.48 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. Against Detroit in the playoffs, however, he wasn’t just average he was bad. In losing all four games he put a 4.36 goals against average with a .879 save percentage. He admitted that after the series was over that he felt like “the goat” for Phoenix and while his teammates share in the failure, Bryzgalov had to be better than this and he wasn’t. I hinted earlier in the series that perhaps Bryzgalov was feeling run down after carrying the load for Phoenix to get into the playoffs, but with this poor of a playoff performance, you wonder how it’ll affect his potential trip into free agency in July.

3. Coyotes couldn’t get it done at even strength

Heading into the playoffs the Coyotes main issue was how poor their power play looked. They weren’t scoring with the man advantage and looked disorganized when they were working the power play. They relied on grinding teams down and getting the goals at even strength. The playoffs turned into Bizarro World for the Coyotes as six of the nine goals they scored in the series came on the power play. Scoring just three goals at even strength when the vast majority of the game is played five-on-five or four-on-four will not get it done. Compare that to Detroit who scored 14 of their 18 goals at even strength. If you can’t keep up with your opponent at even strength you’re not going to win games and Phoenix was decimated in this department.

4. Not enough Shane Doan’s on the roster

Being the captain of the team means leading by example and Shane Doan did that as best as he could. He hit everyone in sight, he tried to score shorthanded, even strength, and on the power play. He mixed it up with anyone in a Detroit uniform. Flat out he was their best player. Certain players took the nod from him in Game 4, including Paul Bissonnette who did his part to unsettle Detroit. Unfortunately there just weren’t enough guys carrying that torch. Keith Yandle had a rough series and wasn’t helped by Derek Morris’ absence.

Getting swept out is a rough way to go, especially under the circumstances the Coyotes face heading into the offseason. This team will be back at it next year and they’ll be a playoff team again as long as Dave Tippett is there. Whether it’s in Arizona or the plains of Manitoba remains to be seen, but someday the Coyotes will get over the hump in the playoffs, they just have to hope they never see Detroit again.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.