Special teams are carrying the Arizona Coyotes to new heights
With a win on Sunday against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, the Arizona Coyotes moved into a tie for fourth place in the Pacific Division standings and two points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
Special teams play has contributed to the recent run of success for the Coyotes, an element that center Derek Stepan noticed the team would need to excel at early in the season.
“Any time you start a year you look at your special teams and they are a big part of the new NHL. You have to be good on your power play and you have to keep the puck out of the net when you are short handed,” Stepan told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Monday.
The numbers suggest the Coyotes have the second part figured out.
Arizona leads the league with a 91.8 percent penalty kill rate, and their nine short handed goals lead the NHL by five through 16 games.
“Our group has worked really hard to make sure our PK is something that is hard to play against,” Stepan said. “Assistant coach Scotty Allen has done a great job of telling us how he wants it done and we’ve done a good job of executing.”
They have given up just four goals on the penalty kill all season. They have enjoyed a +5 goal differential while on the penalty kill and 18-4 goal advantage when combining both special teams.
Special teams play has helped make up for the Coyotes -9 goal differential in five-on-five and pulled goalie scenarios.
Stepan has contributed two short-handed goals for the Coyotes this season and is tied for second on the team with four goals overall.
The Coyotes have the same amount of short handed goals as they do power play goals this season.
While the penalty kill was the star of the Coyotes’ special teams early on, the power play has picked up as over late.
In October, the Coyotes scored only four power play goals in 11 games, whereas in November the team has racked up five power play goals in five games, including two against the Capitals on Sunday. It was the first time the Coyotes converted on more than one power play opportunity in the same game this season.