One man’s demise could be another man’s treasure.
After the Arizona Coyotes sent center Christian Dvorak to the American Hockey League’s Tucson Roadrunners earlier this week, that opened a small crack for center Dylan Strome, the Coyotes first pick and third overall selection in the 2015 draft. Pushed to the bench for five of the Coyotes’ first eight games, and a scratch for the last four contests, Strome was given an opportunity by coach Dave Tippett on Tuesday night, and dressed for his first game since Oct. 21 against the New York Islanders.
The results were encouraging for Strome, despite going scoreless in 16:49 of action. The 19-year-old is not expected to be as productive at the NHL level as he was in junior hockey, during his transition to the pro game. In 24 shifts against in the Coyotes’ 3-2 win over the Sharks before 11,046 people in Gila River Arena, however, Strome showed the potential that make him such a highly touted prospect.
Strome Makes Most of Start
“At this point, we’re trying to get him up to speed,” coach Dave Tippett told The Hockey Writers after the game. “The more practice he gets, and the more time in an NHL atmosphere, the more comfortable he gets. He jumped into a tough game and performed very well.”
Centering between Jamie McGinn on the left side and Anthony Duclair on the right side, Strome disappeared, as did most of the Coyotes in the opening 20 minutes of play. Playing four minutes, 24 seconds in the opening session, Strome was on the ice for Patrick Marleau’s goal at 14:07 of the first period that snapped a scoreless tie.
While his marginal play reflected the Coyotes sluggish start, Strome, along with his teammates, picked up the pace. Gradually, Tippett put Strome in critical situations and had Strome out on a third period power play attempt. Here, one centering pass directly on the stick of Anthony Duclair resulted in a strong save from Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
By the second period, he controlled faceoffs and found teammates with sharp passes.
“You can see the confidence he has,” said McGinn, who scored the game-winner at 11:59 of the second period. “He’s intelligently holding the puck and finding teammates. That confidence is getting stronger.”
Redemption for Domingue
As Strome and the Coyotes elevated their game after a listless opening 20 minutes, goaltender Louis Domingue was the catalyst. Making tough saves at critical times, Domingue redeemed himself after taking blame in the Coyotes’ loss to Colorado last Saturday. After dropping that decision to the Avs, Domingue squarely put the culpability upon his shoulders. As if flipping a light switch, the 24-year-old proceeded to turn away 39 of 41 San Jose shots, and gained his second victory of the season.
“The Sharks were a good test for us,” he said. “For me, this meant playing a full 60 minutes and staying focused. Guys blocked shots in front of me. We were very good controlling faceoffs and killing off penalties.”
Coming into the game, the Coyotes were 27th in the NHL killing penalties and held the Sharks to 0-2 with the man advantage.
If the Coyotes are to compete in the highly competitive Pacific Division and Western Conference, efforts like the one against San Jose must be steady and consistent.
“We can’t sit back, but must be aggressive,” Tippett said. “(Against the Sharks), I thought we real solid around the net. (Defenseman Alex) Gogloski played very well, and Connor Murphy and Jakob Chychrun are playing well together. These are all good signs.”
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.