Coyotes fans were scratching their heads wondering why their youth was never called up for the end of the season. Arizona put a halt on Max Domi, the rookie wonder who was having a ball with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, saying they didn’t want to ruin such a beautiful thing. So instead the team decided to build from scratch, adding one of his best pals Anthony DuClair and Jordan Martinook to the roster on trades and call ups of their own. It should be their veterans that are holding the fort down, where experience takes over the youth from being such an elite team.
As strange as this may sound, these three are the big difference makers, and it’s the youth that is serving a dish best served cold.
“These kids are really working hard at playing such a strong team game,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. “We really need their speed and skill and it’s been on display so far.”
In their first three games it has been these three young guns that have not only propelled the Coyotes on such a solid start to the season, but their presence on the ice makes this team not look like a squad that was picked to be as the bottom feeders of the NHL. They are doing it with aggression. They are doing all of this with such style and finesse. Add in the veterans that blend in, and this team looks much different compared to last season in a big way.
“We have done a lot of video and a lot of teaching with our young guys,” Tippett said. “They are really jumping in and doing a real good job for us. It’s real awesome to see these guys get noticed for their hard work when people don’t notice. When they score people notice so now when they don’t score, people see that as well.”
Each of the three newcomers on the team have been the main men on offense. Combined these three have 6 of the Coyotes 10 goals on the year. And this was a team where if they were ever outshot, its offense would be nonexistent. This time around, being outplayed on the net in two of the three games they have won by a margin of three goals each.
Take last night for example against an Anaheim team last night that has so much experience and a lot of big time names. It didn’t take long for the Duclair-Domi duo to make noise in a heartbeat. Duclair went off three times in a matter of a period and a half, once off a Domi assist going on a breakaway. Domi also scored in the first add more fuel to the fire. Of course three of the four were picked up by Anaheim’s backup goalie Anton Khudobin, but not even Fredrik Anderson would have a say in any of those stops.
It makes it seem like the idea of having best buds on the ice is working pretty well.
“We have built such a good chemistry with our speed,” Duclair said. “We all want to play fast and physical. We have done our part to make sure we start out rough and get things going right away. It’s what I’ve been trained to do.”
“Everything is just working collectively with not just Duclair but with all of us,” Domi said. “We have such a special group, and with our speed we are trying to make that our advantage.”
Ask the Coyote veteran faithful how they feel about this, and they say the same.
“It is amazing how much different the chemistry has been since the start of the season,” Martin Hanzal said. “Adding the youth to the team has given us a big spark that we haven’t seen in a while on this team. They are blending in real well and all of us are making a difference to start off the season strong.”
“It all starts with the defense on our end and the youth,” Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. “We are moving the puck quick and executing much better. We haven’t been banging on the boards like we used to where they all turn into transitions. When you play a team like Anaheim like we did last night, you notice the big things.”
With how much more explosive the Coyote offense has become, you can’t take away how much better Mike Smith has played in front of the goal. Shots against him have become a little more few and far between, but with only two goals against him so far, there is a much different Smith on the ice compared to years past. Let his teammates make their presence felt as they gave Smith his first well-earned shut out on the year.
“I really want to see how many solid scoring chances there were in a game like this, and he did look very good,” Tippett said. “If he is available [tonight] I may have to go with the hot hand.”
With three early wins on the year, there is still not much talk about this team from the desert, and it seems to be fair. Of course a lot of power rankings have them soaring into the top ten. If this all keeps up though, there could be more excitement brewing other than their new apparel they are sporting.
“We are a group that was picked to not be around the top of the league,” Smith said. “We take pride in proving people wrong. We have a good mix of guys young and old. The young guys are bringing in fresh energy right away and people are noticing. I think we believe after beating the teams we have beaten we have to continue to be the hardest working team every night.”