If you have not yet seen, there was a game of ice hockey played in the deserts of Arizona this afternoon, a game in which either team would be happy with either result. Now that may seem confusing at first, but when you look at all the facts, you can see why a loss in this game can also be considered a win. On Monday, January the seventeenth, the Arizona Coyotes held a game against the Montreal Canadiens in their temporary home of Gila River Arena. Going into this game the Canadiens and Coyotes had one major thing in common. Neither team is very good. Both teams are last in their conference, the Coyotes in the west, and Canadiens in the east. And both teams know that the playoffs are not an option in 2022. Being last in your conference isn’t that important, however, being last in the league can give a franchise a greater chance of future improvement. The lower a team is in the overall standings, the higher of a chance that the team lands the first overall draft pick or just a higher pick in general. So when two teams who could both benefit from a higher draft pick face off against each other, it can be hard to predict what will happen.
In the case of today’s game, I felt both teams did want to win but knew that a loss wouldn’t be the end of the world. The first period started off strong with Travis Boyd and Johan Larsson scoring early to put the Coyotes up two to nothing. The Canadiens would get one goal before the end of the period bringing it back to within one. In the second period, the Coyotes would score two more from Janis Moser, and Nick Schmaltz, allowing one more goal against. And in the final period, with the score at 4-2, Clayton Keller would seal the deal with an empty-net goal, leading the Coyotes to walk away with their ninth win of the season.
With this win, the Coyotes will sit second last with 22 points, putting them three points ahead of Montreal, and two points behind the Senators (who have played six fewer games). The Coyotes have made it very clear that they are in full rebuild mode, and their player moves and asset collection decisions have further cemented this idea. However, games against teams like Montreal show us that organizations can tank a season all they want, but at the end of the day, players and coaches are out there to win. If the men out on the ice really wanted that first overall draft pick, they would not have scored five goals and saved 24/26 shots, But every player knows that what happens this year can change their career. There are a lot of guys on this roster whose contracts are going to end after this season or next, and if they want to play for a team with a real chance, or even if they want to make what they feel they are worth, they need to play to their absolute best.
To close, yes, the Coyotes won a game this afternoon, but we have to wonder if this win is really what is best for our organization. If you ask me, getting the first overall pick and drafting Shane Wright could be the start of a winning franchise in the deserts of Arizona.