While the Bruins are perched comfortably atop the Eastern Conference with a 44-17-5 record and look to fine tune their game to make an all-out run for the Stanley Cup, the Coyotes are breathing their last gasps of air in the Western Conference playoff race, still unable to overtake the Dallas Stars for the final wildcard spot. The Coyotes took the ice at TD Garden riding a two-game winning streak headed into their final tilt of a four game eastern road swing, but their quest for a third win in a row remained elusive, as the Bruins skated off with a 2-1 win.
The Coyotes haven’t notched a three game winning streak since the beginning of November. They committed two of their most common miscues in the opening period; the Bruins quickly capitalized on both, and they needed nothing else offensively, as Tuuka Rask‘s always stellar netminding took care of the rest.
The Coyotes’ first blunder came when blueliner Keith Yandle failed to clear his defensive zone. Instead of moving the puck past the blue line, he sailed it to a wide open Zdeno Chara, the NHL equivalent of an opposing basketball team providing LeBron James a stepladder right under the hoop. Chara made the Coyotes pay dearly and scored the game’s first goal at the 5:54 mark. Then, in the first period’s waning minutes, Rask smacked a loose puck off of his crease just in time to prevent the Coyotes from lighting the lamp. Evidently stunned that they couldn’t find the back of the net after coming so close, the Coyotes couldn’t regroup at the other end on time to prevent Johnny Boychuk from rifling a slapshot from right of point, which an uncovered Jerome Iginla tipped in effortlessly to put the Bruins up 2-0.
The Coyotes finally stymied Rask in the final period on Lauri Korpikoski‘s redirect of a slapshot from defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but that was the only scoring they could muster. The Coyotes again faltered on the power play going 0-for-5, which included failure to capitalize on four minutes of man advantage time in the first period after the Bruins’ Jordan Caron earned himself a double-minor for high sticking.
None of this is new for the Coyotes; the only difference is that they especially couldn’t afford these same mistakes and missed opportunities against a top-tier team like the Bruins. Instead of making the final push necessary to move past the Stars and propel themselves into the post season, the team persists wading in mediocrity while perhaps turning in a strong period here and there. Unless this changes, the Coyotes won’t be playing hockey much longer as the regular season winds down.