Youth helps Coyotes end 7-game losing streak
GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s easy to forget how young the Coyotes are when you dissect all their issues in this franchise worst start.
A 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals served as a reminder that there is still plenty of promise on this team.
Christian Fischer tied the game with 1:01 left in regulation, Clayton Keller scored with 27 seconds left in overtime and Christian Dvorak had a goal as the Coyotes ended a seven-game losing streak at Gila River Arena on Friday.
As for that youth, players age 22 or younger have scored 47 of the Coyotes’ 83 goals this season, the highest total in the NHL in that category. Keller (13), Fischer (9), Brendan Perlini (8) and Anthony Duclair (7) have the four highest goal totals on the team and Dvorak (5) is seventh.
Signs of progress have been scant for the Coyotes this season, but the first two players on that list have given coach Rick Tocchet little to complain about this season.
Keller has been a rookie of the year candidate all season and Fischer is emulating the power forward model his coach established as a player.
“He’s been our most improved player, for me, since Oct. 1,” Tocchet said. “He does the greasy stuff, he goes to the net and he’s not scared to go into the corners and we need those type of players around here.”
Fischer said the key to his improvement is being a good pupil.
“I’m pretty coachable,” he said. “I don’t want to pump my own tires but when somebody tells me something I know that that’s what they want and I’ve got to do that.
They obviously have the knowledge. Our whole coaching staff has had success in the NHL and they know what they’re talking about so if they tell me one thing I’m for sure going to do it.”
On the game-tying goal with goalie Scott Wedgewood pulled for an extra attacker, Fischer drove to the net to push in the rebound of Jason Demers’ shot from the point, and then he followed that shot into the net with his body.
“There’s been a couple times where I scored this year and I went into the net as well,” Fischer said, smiling. “Insurance, just making sure.”
“That was a fun goal to score. The building was loud after that.”
Consistency is the most-cited quality when coaches are asked what young players must to do to progress.
Keller has regained his touch and Fischer is on a steady climb, but Tocchet still wants to see Perlini impact games on a more regular basis, Dvorak needs to build more of last season’s impressive rookie campaign, and Tocchet wants Duclair to understand the culture he is building.
When Tocchet was asked about Duclair’s absence from the lineup for a second straight game — his 10th time as a healthy scratch this season — Tocchet made it clear that he needs to see more buy-in.
“I think Duke’s still learning,” he said. “You have to give effort. You’ve got to know the system. You’ve got to know where you’re going. It’s not on your own program. I’m not saying it’s just him. I’m not trying to pick on him. I just don’t think the effort’s there, quite frankly, on every night.”
There will be more ups and downs for the Coyotes’ pups. It comes with the age, but Friday’s win was a tantalizing appetizer of what is possible.
On the game-winning goal in 3-on-3 overtime, Domi and Alex Goligoski worked a give-and-go in the left face-off circle and Domi displayed some next-level stick handling and passing to get the puck to Keller.
Keller deked goalie Philipp Grubauer to his knees and slipped the puck inside the far post.
“Kells played better defensively,” Tocchet said. “I thought he was slipping defensively but he hung in there tonight and then he’s talented enough that he just needs a couple chances to score.”