Much has been written about the resilience of the Arizona Coyotes in their fight against injuries during their impressive climb into what is currently a place in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This is the case at PHT, of course, since Sean Leahy was able to deepen her knowledge both coach Rick Tocchet and GM John Chayka with regard to these challenges. This is understandable, as Tocchet described the extent of the Coyotes' wounds as something he had never seen in his "thirty years" in the NHL.
But for me, the real story of the rise of the Coyotes comes down to a goalkeeper: Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper has clearly made New Year's resolutions
Since February 19th, the Coyotes' 20 points lead all the NHL teams, but they were outperformed by 401-357 over the same period. They have generally been a third team down from the point of view of possession statistics this season, and they actually slipped further during this race 10-2-0.
While the Coyotes have done a better job of winning the battle of very high chances of danger than they are doing for the general fight against splits, Kuemper is still far from the difference.
In this race, Kuemper's 10 victories outperform the pack, as the closest since February 19th are a handful of goalies with seven wins. His saving percentage of 0.943 also shines.
However, there might be a reflex to send this question in the form of small samples. Interestingly, it really seems that Kuemper has become a new guardian when the calendar arrived in 2019.
Since the 1st of JanuaryKuemper outscored all goalies with 19 wins, and he's racked up a whopping .930 in 27 games played. This is a resounding reversal for a guard whose backup percentage was less than .900 between November and December.
Kuemper's vital work was not lost with Chayka, who congratulated the goalkeeper during the March 8 interview with PHT.
"This is the story of our season," said Chayka. "A guy has an opportunity that he might not have had otherwise with some of the injuries and he gets up and raises his game. It's been a big story for us. It was a rock for us there. It gives guys a lot of insurance and lets them go play their game … "
There was a feeling of sadness there, as Chayka seemed to identify Raanta as a guardian with a high-end star talent, but perhaps not the body (or at least the health luck) to endure such a burden working. The Kuemper race claims that Chayka actually identified two difference makers in the network.
Kuemper is one of the parts A to Z explaining why the Coyotes benefit from this meteoric rise, but let's look at some other factors.
It is interesting to note that there is only one Coyotes skater to have scored one point per game in this 10-2-0 run in 12 games. With Thursday hat trick, Vinnie Hinostroza now has 12 points in as many games. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the only other player with double-digit points during this period with 10.
You think that Clayton Keller (seven points) and Alex Galchenyuk (Four) would have been a bigger part of that jump at the top of the standings, but the Coyotes scored goals by committee … and, of course, mostly prevented the other teams from scoring. They allowed only 25 goals in this sequence, one touchdown on two goals per game.
Interesting tests coming soon
While the Coyotes began to warm up on a three-game road trip (defeated in Calgary on Feb. 18, and then started to gain ground with two wins away), they usually played a lot on the road. House. From February 24 to March 9, the Coyotes lost 6-1-0 in a family-friendly game played in seven games, forming a large part of this hot series.
It should be interesting to see how they manage a program of remaining time.
On one side, the slate includes quite a few games against unqualified teams. This is especially true if the Blackhawks felt less in a hurry by March 26 and the Avalanche was out of the mix by March 29.
Anyway, after the Saturday home game against the Oilers, face a four-game road trip and face Glendale five out of six, March 21-29.
This is not the kind of stretch that is automatically condemned to loss, but it can be a challenge for a team that sometimes wins with lean margins. (Again, their last two wins were 6-1 and 3-1, so maybe they're hot on the offensive too?)
Stressing that the race in Arizona, led by Kuemper, is not intended to condemn the efforts of the Coyotes. Given all their injuries, how can you realistically expect a team that is not really starred to win games?
The Coyotes built themselves a bit of a buffer in front of bubble teams like the Wild (get the countdown at Push for the Playoffs), to the point that they are likely to retain a place.