The Morning After: Sheep in Coyotes clothing
Turns out the Coyotes aren't good.
So yeah, the Sharks let things get interesting against the Coyotes last night, but don't let that get in the way of how extremely not good Arizona is this year. We went through this same nonsense with the Calgary Flames last year, and yes, given the state of the Pacific Division and the general puck-luck-is-all-that-mattersness of the NHL, the Coyotes could still make the playoffs this year.
But they probably won't — partially because they're terrible and partially because the Anaheim Ducks decided scoring is something they wanted to do this year. Let's start with last night, a game the Coyotes were thoroughly dominated in early on before the Sharks scored a pair of goals.
That score-adjusted fenwick chart says about all that needs to be said. After going up by a pair of goals the Sharks let the Coyotes back into the game — which is pretty predictable. A couple seasons ago there was a lot of hand wringing about San Jose sitting on leads, which is silly because every team sits on leads. So yeah, the Sharks pounded the Coyotes, much like most teams have done so this season.
When people talk about the Coyotes being a "surprising story" they should be talking about the horseshoe in Arizona's pants, not the young guys who have inexplicably gotten the Coyotes wins despite being outshot by a ton. The Coyotes are 28th in the NHL in score-adjusted fenwick-for percentage (5v5) with a stunning 46.2 mark. For the sake of comparison, the Sharks are sixth at 52.5 percent.
So how have the Coyotes managed to land themselves two points out of a playoff spot halfway through the season? Arizona is doing very, very well in one-goal games (.583 win percentage) which is sixth in the NHL. Combine that with five loser points and the fact that the Pacific more closely resembles a pile of shit on fire than a hockey division and you just about get your answer.
Arizona may very well be a team on the rise (eh) but in the year of our lord 2016 the Coyotes are a bad hockey team. That doesn't mean they can't luck their way into the playoffs, but it does mean the Sharks should thorougly handle the Desert Dogs over their final four encounters of the season. Thursday night's win wasn't an aberration, it was the start of what will almost certainly be a very consistent trend.