The first half of the 2015-16 NHL season is complete and the Arizona Coyotes are still contending for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. In a division where second place and seventh place have been separated by just a few points, Arizona has been able to stay in front of the six-team battle. A lot of their success has been thanks to the work of their “D”-men, and this is not just referring to their group of high-scoring defenseman. Arizona players with a last name starting with D have been instrumental in pushing the Coyotes in the right direction over the last few weeks.
The most highlighted D’s on Arizona’s roster are the rookie tandem of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. At the halfway point of the season, Domi is second in assists for the Coyotes with 18, while Duclair is tied for second in goals with 12. However, another pair of Arizona D’s has stepped up in recent games. Shane Doan had a recent hot streak in which he scored seven goals in four games, with the Coyotes going 2-1-1 in that stretch.
His 15 goals leads the team and also has him on pace for a 30-goal season, something the Arizona captain has only achieved twice in his 20-year career (30 goals in 2005-06 and his career-high 31 in 2008-09). The other D is Coyotes prospect Laurent Dauphin. Dauphin played in three games with Arizona and scored his first career NHL goal on January 4 in Vancouver. He was sent back to the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate in Springfield as Martin Hanzal returned from injury, but the 2013 second-round draft pick made the most of his time in the pros and helped keep Arizona on their current 7-1-2 run over the last 10 games.
After a solid first two months of the season, the Coyotes ran into some adversity in the first half of December. Arizona started the month by going 1-5-1 in their first seven contests, followed by the news that starting goaltender Mike Smith would miss 8-10 weeks after having core muscle surgery. The season could have easily been sent spiraling downwards, but rookie goaltender Louis Domingue has helped keep the Coyotes going strong in the last month. Domingue is 6-2-2 this season, with both regulation losses coming in relief appearances. In the eight games he has started, Domingue has a 1.73 GAA and a .947 save percentage with two shutouts.
Domingue could be on a collision course this week with another goaltender picked in the fifth round of the 2010 Entry Draft. Three picks after Arizona selected Domingue with the 138th overall choice in 2010, the Detroit Red Wings used the 141th overall pick to select goaltender Petr Mrazek. Mrazek has backstopped the Red Wings to a four-game winning streak, earning him Second Star of the Week honors on Monday, and they make their only visit to the desert this season on Thursday.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.