The Arizona Coyotes' bubble has been popped.
After beating the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round to earn their first *official* playoff berth since 2012, the Coyotes found themselves staring down a very tough first-round matchup against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs were one of the West's best teams in the regular season and the Yotes were going to need to bring their A-game in order to have a shot.
They did not bring their A-game. As a result, it was Colorado that had most of the shots and the Avs needed just five games to send Arizona packing.
Let's take a look at where things went wrong for the Coyotes.
Contender vs. pretender
This series was always a pretty big mismatch. The Avs have had some forward momentum for a few years and they proved this season that they can be among the league's most explosive and dangerous teams. They're a true Cup contender hunting glory this postseason.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes snuck into the playoffs on the back of great goaltending and an expanded postseason picture following a somewhat frustrating and inconsistent regular season. They were always going to need a lot of things to go right in order for them to go on a serious run. But to get through the Avs? It seemed like they'd need to perform to a level we haven't seen from them this year, or they'd need to get otherworldly goaltending between the pipes.
In the end, if they played out of character, it wasn't for the better. And the goaltending couldn't help disguise this situation from its reality: A pretender walking straight into the lion's den, and the lions were hungry.
Inability to stop the Avalanche attack
The Avs essentially ran over the Coyotes in this series. Colorado's offensive attack was relentless and they never really took their foot off the gas in terms of applying pressure. Arizona's team defense could do little to stop the bleeding and the 5v5 numbers tell a story, via Natural Stat Trick:
- Shot attempts: 269-185 Avalanche
- Shots on net: 148-90 Avalanche
- High danger chances: 48 - 34 Avalanche
- Expected goals: 9.6 - 6.3 Avalanche
- Goals: 14 - 5 Avalanche
When you consider the fact that the Coyotes don't typically generate a whole lot offensively (more on that in a second) and they didn't play well on special teams (also more on that coming), well, you can see why it would be such a huge problem that the Avs controlled nearly 60 percent of attempts.
The Avs were able to roll four lines and keep the ice tilted toward Arizona's end, and the end result was Colorado outscoring Arizona by a total of 22-8.
Lack of offense
The biggest concern surrounding the Coyotes was (and has been) a lack of offensive production. They haven't won many track meets over the years but they were aggressive in trying to bring in veteran offensive help on the wing, including trading for Phil Kessel last offseason and then making a big splash for Taylor Hall during the season. Despite those adds, the Yotes were still hit-or-miss offensively and they wound up finishing 23rd in the league in goals per game this season.
In this series, the Coyotes got almost nothing going offensively. They scored just eight times over the course of the five game series. Eight total goals. The Avalanche scored seven in a game ... twice.
A whopping output of 1.6 goals per game isn't going to get the job done against most teams, but it's certainly not going to get the job done against one of the most fearsome offensive teams in the league.
As for Hall, who commanded a hefty trade package mid-season, he scored one of those goals and added an assist. That's it. With him on the ice at 5v5, the Coyotes scored two goals and gave up seven. Kessel had zero offensive contributions in the five games. No goals, no assists...on the ice for zero goals for, two against.
The Coyotes leading scorer in the series was Clayton Keller. He had two goals and an assist. He was a minus-2.
If you're going to get smoked at 5v5, then your best bet is to bank on goaltending and hope you can take advantage of your opportunities on the power play. Arizona failed to do anything of the sort, going just 1-for-15 (6.7 percent conversion rate) on the man-advantage in the series. They had 14 shots in nearly 31 minutes of power play time.
And the penalty kill? Well, it wasn't much better. They went shorthanded 20 times -- far too many times when facing a power play as scary as Colorado's -- and got scored on seven times. That's a 65 percent kill rate for the Coyotes. Not great.
The dominance of Playoff Nathan MacKinnon & Cale Makar
Sometimes when a player has a reputation of finding another level of their game in the postseason, they get a "Playoff" prefix slapped onto their name to indicate their ability to take over games. Well, let me tell you...Playoff Nathan MacKinnon is real, and he was incredible in this series.
MacKinnon has been, at worst, the second- or third-best player in the league over the past few years, so it's a tall task for any team to stop him on any given night. But MacKinnon constantly seems to elevate his game at the biggest moments and he wasted no time showing what kind of impact he's capable of having in these playoffs.
Over the course of the five games in this series, MacKinnon amassed 10 points (three goals and seven assists). When he was on the ice, the Avalanche controlled 70 percent of the shot attempts.& shots on goal, and outscored the opposition 6-1.
And Cale Makar, the Avs' electric blue line presence? The Avs controlled 71.7 percent of the attempts and outscored Arizona 7-0 when he was on the ice. Those are the kinds of playmakers that can help carry a team on a deep Stanley Cup run.