Coyotes Finding Early Season Special Teams Success

Most people would be surprised to learn that the Arizona Coyotes‘ special teams are near the top of the NHL this season. Through 15 games, the Coyotes are three points out of a wild-card spot with a 6-8-1 record. In those 15 games, they rank fourth in the league with a 29.6 percent success rate on the power play and a penalty kill percentage of 82.0 percent, good for seventh.

Christian Fischer Arizona Coyotes
Christian Fischer, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This early season special teams success comes in the wake of a rather pleasant start for the Coyotes. Last season, they had a 1-13-1 record to start, and the team couldn’t find success anywhere on the ice. That has not been the case in 2022-23. Rookies Dylan Guenther and Matias Maccelli have provided a welcome spark, while veterans Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, Nick Ritchie, Travis Boyd, and Shayne Gostisbehere have continued to build off last season.

Reason For Coyotes’ Early Success

While on the man advantage, the Coyotes are generating offense from Keller, who has registered three goals and four assists, as well as rookie Maccelli’s seven points (one goal, six assists), and Guenther’s five points (three goals, two assists). Others, such as Boyd and Gostisbehere, have also contributed five points each on the power play, with Ritchie adding six. Defensemen J.J. Moser and Juuso Valimaki have been the X-factors, with six and four points each.

Related: Arizona Coyotes 2022-23 Season Preview

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On the other side of the puck, the penalty-kill unit has done its job so far, killing off 82.0 percent of 168 penalty minutes. Defense and goaltending from Karel Vejmelka and Connor Ingram have been the main factor here. Players like Christian Fischer, Troy Stecher, and others have been playing a key role, and with a kill percentage of 83.6, the Coyotes have found a way to keep the opposition out of their own net while a man down.

Can Coyotes Maintain Success?

While Arizona might not be able to keep up their fairly decent play as the season develops, expect their special teams to continue to shine. With continued strong play from players throughout the lineup, the Coyotes are experiencing a rejuvenated special teams unit under head coach André Tourigny’s system as they continue to buy into this new regime. They’ve continued to trudge on, even without star players such as Jakob Chychrun and Nick Schmaltz.

Travis Boyd Arizona Coyotes
Travis Boyd, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite some early season struggles, which saw the Coyotes lose five of their first six games, giving up six goals in each, the team seems to have things figured out. Whatever the Coyotes are preaching in the locker room, they need to keep it up. Last season, they ranked 30th in the league in power-play percentage at 13.9 and 28th in penalty-kill percentage. The coaching staff needs to continue emphasizing the importance of the special teams if they want to remain among the top of the league statistically.

Nevertheless, Arizona is shocking people so far this season, proving to be a real threat when it comes to special teams play. Their puck possession has greatly improved from last season, and they’re outshooting the opposition more than getting outshot. They’re locking down the defensive zone on a nightly basis and making it harder for their opponents to create any chances. The Coyotes’ coaching staff is to thank for this, as they have done an excellent job of stressing the importance of special teams and overall zone play. This staff will need to continue pushing that message across if the Coyotes plan to keep up the recent success.

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