GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett isn’t worried about keeping a lid on his team’s excitement after back-to-back wins to open the season.
“I think they’re too tired,” Tippett said with a smile.
Tippett might have a harder time containing a fan base that was steeling itself for the worst and now must try to keep its collective head from exploding as it waits for the next game Wednesday in Anaheim.
Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Gila River Arena was a display of so many elements that have been missing the past two seasons in Glendale. Goalie Mike Smith looked like the 2012 vintage for a second straight game. Nicklas Grossmann looked like the physical, punishing defenseman that this franchise has lacked for the last two seasons, the young players were the dynamic and energetic force that has been absent from the offense, and by the third period, there was so much energy in the building it felt like that 2012 playoff run.
“It was a great game,” Tippett said. “There was a streak there in the third period that I think we went six or seven minutes without a whistle. It was a very entertaining game.”
Saturday’s win gave the club its first 2-0 start since 2009-10 when it also opened with wins over the Kings and Penguins on its way to a franchise record 107 points. It’s just a quick start, but it sure beats the expected alternative.
“It’s always nice to come out of the gate with two wins,” said forward Jordan Martinook, whose first career NHL goal was the game-winner and also gave him his first NHL win in nine tries. “Our team’s been playing well most of the time, but we just want to put it together for 60 minutes.”
That hasn’t been a problem for Smith, who has stopped 67 of 69 shots this season and was at his best in the third period when the Penguins started generating quality chances.
The best of those was a post-to-post stop on Pittsburgh center Nick Bonino in the third period that kept that slim one-goal lead intact.
“I could envision something like this but I didn’t picture it to be maybe this good,” Smith said of his start, which includes a .971 save percentage that is the fourth-best mark in the NHL. “I think in the past I’ve gotten maybe too focused on winning, winning, winning and maybe not doing my job. I’m just trying to stay composed and trying to stay calm and cool.”
The Coyotes would do well to follow that same, simple example. Their October schedule is brutal, with six of their next nine games on the road. But hey, Arizona has two wins in two October games. It posted three wins all of last October.
“It’s a confidence builder for a team,” Smith said.
The Coyotes have a pulse again. Given where they have been, there’s nothing wrong with getting excited about that.
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