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.