If the Arizona Coyotes had started the season off in the manner they are finishing it off, they'd be much higher in the NHL standings.
Since 2018 began the Coyotes have been playing at a much higher level
The Coyotes have really turned it up a notch since they have gotten injured players like Antti Raanta, and Niklas Hjalmarsson back in the lineup again.
One game which really stands out in the upward path the Desert Dogs have taken was on February 8, 2018, against the Minnesota Wild.
The Coyotes fell behind by the midway point of the game by a 3-0 score. The surprising Arizona team fought back with three unanswered goals to catch up and knot the score at 3-3.
The tying goal was scored by Nick Cousins with just 19 seconds remaining in the third period. Cousins had two goals in the game on the gritty fourth-line with linemates Jordan Martinook and Brad Richardson.
So, they earned a point on the road, never a bad thing, but this time this team was hungry for more.
When it went into overtime the hero of the game was rookie sensation Clayton Keller who tallied the game-winner at the 3:55 mark.
From that point on, they went 4-1-1 and really started to come together as a team. In fact, they jumpstarted a four-game winning streak by dominating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1.
Their record against the Blackhawks was 2-10-2 since the 2013/14 season before this lopsided game was played. Now, the Chicago team is not playing like their dominating selves this season, but it could be a turning point for two teams heading in completely different directions.
Their record is surprising some
Even after the team went on a four-game winning streak starting with the Blackhawks game, they have continued to play well with a 4-2-1 record.
Some of their success should be attributed to their favorable schedule since January 1, 2018, which has seen them play at home 16 times while only away from home for nine games. They went 5-2 on their most current seven-game homestand.
Just as a comparison, the red-hot Nashville Predators have won nine games straight and are an impressive 11-2-1 in their last 14 games.
The Arizona Coyotes are almost in the same ballpark with a 9-3-2 record. Now, this isn't to say that the Coyotes are as good a team as the Western Conference-leading Preds, but one must admit they are turning heads around the league.
Confidence is addictive
This Coyotes' team is gaining confidence that they can be a goal or two and still come back to win the game.
Why is that?
First and foremost the goaltending has elevated to a level where Raanta and newly acquired Darcy Kuemper are holding off the other team's scoring attempts.
That lifts a team's spirits, but more importantly, gives them confidence and fires up the entire team.
Don't look now but the Coyotes are not in last place anymore, they're TIED for last with the lowly Buffalo Sabres who have lost their premier star player Jack Eichel to injury.
As of this writing, the Coyotes own 53 points with a 21-34-11 record. The Sabres also have 53 points but have played one more game than the Arizona team.
They also just trail the Vancouver Canucks by a mere six points with a game in hand on them.
With 16 games remaining, the team which looked like they would break the awful team record of just 56 points in the 2014/15 season will easily surpass that mark.
How do you spell P-R-O-G-R-E-S-S ?
The head coach of the Coyotes, Rick Tocchet has to be given some well-deserved credit for getting his team back on track lately. There were numerous bumps in the road including injuries, new players, and a young team still learning how to win.
As each game is played it is obvious that young players like Keller, Brendan Perlini, Christian Fischer, Jakob Chychrun, Max Domi, and Christian Dvorak are picking up their games... and that means wins.
Wins are the name of the game, and it seems that Tocchet drilling that his young team needs to follow the game plan and his system is finally striking gold.
The kind of gold that puts a team in the playoffs
Next year... watch out for the Arizona Coyotes!
Do you think the Arizona Coyotes are turning things around and may have a shot at making the playoffs next season? Let us know in the comments section below.