A coyotes fan pondered a fascinating question after the teams 3-2 OT win in Edmonton on Monday.
The desert dogs are truly looking like contenders through 14 games and there are a lot of reasons why but here are three of the biggest pieces of the puzzle.
- Nick Schmaltz is healthy
Schmaltz was acquired last season in a trade with the Blackhawks and immediately made an impact with 14 points in 17 games before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. He’s now 100 percent healthy and he has been the most productive and dangerous forward for the Coyotes this season. He has 13 points in 14 games this season to lead the team and he has a clear chemistry with linemate Conor Garland and the pair has turned into a pretty deadly combo for opposing teams as Garland leads the team with seven goals this season
- Darcy Kuemper & Antti Raanta are playing at an elite level
Arizona has only allowed 30 goals in 14 games which is tied for second in the league. Yes, the Coyotes play a lockdown style defense in front of their studs in net but it’s still the goaltenders job to keep the puck out of the net and Kuemper and Raanta are both playing at an elite level. Through the first 14 games the Coyotes have only allowed more than three goals one time. Kuemper is already having a better season by the numbers than he did last season when he finished fifth in Vezina trophy voting. Kuemper is 2nd in the NHL behind Tuukka Rask in a stat called goals saved above average. GSAA essentially is the number of goals saved by a goalie in comparison to the league average and Kuemper is one of the best in the league
- Scoring up and down the lineup and better possession in the offensive zone
Last season the Coyotes top scorer was Clayton Keller with 47 points in 82 games. Only three Coyotes put up more than 40 points last season. This season eight players are on pace for 40-plus. Why is their scoring up? They are spending more time in the offensive zone. The best stat to figure this out is Corsi (aka shot attempts). It’s pretty simple to understand that if you are taking more shot attempts than your opponent than you are spending more time in the attacking zone. In the first two seasons of Rick Tocchet’s tenure the Coyotes were at the bottom of the league in possession (They took 48.47 of the shot attempts compared to their opponent) and ranked 24th. This season they have improved to taking over 51 percent of the shot attempts compared to their opponents and that is good enough for 12th in the league. It shouldn’t be surprising that more time in the offensive zone has led to more goals and more wins. The key number for the Coyotes this season is three goals. When they score three or more goals Arizona is 8-0
All of these things and a few other puzzle pieces fitting together make for a team with a 9-2-1 record in their last 12 games.