Coyotes Tough March Has Bright Spots


The month of March provided the Coyotes to experiment with new players as well as evaluate the ones that have been within the organization. Although it was a tough month in the win loss column, Arizona now has a better idea of who should remain in the plans for the future.

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Arizona went 3-10-1 in a month full of varied opponents and a long home stand. Some positives to take from these last few weeks is the improved play from the youth as well as improved play from players acquired in the middle of the season. Last but not least, the Coyotes saw a much greater form from their featured goaltender.

The month began with a 6-game home stand in Glendale. After a loss to Anaheim, the Coyotes were able to bounce back on Throwback Night and defeat Vancouver in a shootout to snap a 10-game losing streak. Arizona was unable to take advantage of the rest of the time at Gila River, only grabbing 1 point in an overtime loss to Nashville.

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After a quick flight to Los Angeles and a shutout loss, the Coyotes returned to Glendale to host three more games. Unfortunately they were defeated on all three occasions and forced to hit the road. At this juncture in the month, Arizona had only scored 10 goals in 10 games.

Their road trip ended up being exactly what they needed as their offense came alive in a pair of overtime victories. The first was 5-4 win over Detroit and the second was a 4-3 win over Buffalo. They returned to Arizona for their final game of the month, a showdown with the Buffalo Sabres that Connor McDavid was sure to be interested in. After the Coyotes won in Buffalo, the Sabres returned the favor.

Mar 21, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Tobias Rieder (8) celebrates with defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) and right wing David Moss (18) after scoring a goal in the first period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

One of the offensive leaders for the Coyotes in March was Tobias Rieder. Rieder scored 5 goals in March, his highest total in any month. Beyond that, Rieder was efficient as well, sporting an outstanding 15.6% shot percentage. Rieder was a among the top Coyotes forwards in average time on ice with 18:27 minutes per game, also his highest mark of any month.

David Moss is one of many Coyotes that are fighting to stay in Arizona’s future plans. An increase in playing time in the top 6 has given Moss an opportunity to show his worth. In March, Moss scored 3 goals and also had an impressive shot percentage with 15%. Even with the Coyotes struggles during this stretch, Moss was able to have a plus-minus rating of +3.

Sam Gagner led all Coyotes with 7 assists and also saw his average time on ice increase with 18:25 minutes per game. Right behind him in the assist category was Mark Arcobello with 6. Arcobello was among the leaders in shots on goal and has also put out a great argument for his inclusion on the team next year.

Mar 22, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) skates past Vancouver Canucks right wing Derek Dorsett (51) during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Among the defensemen, there’s always one name that makes this list. Oliver Ekman-Larsson led all Coyotes with 9 points in March. His 4 goals were among the top NHL D-men. Ekman-Larrson’s 5 assists led Coyotes D-men. His average time on ice rocketed to 25:57 minutes per game in March. Despite the amount of time he’s on the ice for the Coyotes, his plus-minus rating for March was even.

The trades of Antoine Vermette and Keith Yandle brought over some young defensemen to Glendale, who have performed well in March. Part of the Yandle trade, 24-year old John Moore has seen more average time on ice (19:30 minutes per game) in this past month with the Coyotes than any other month this season. Moore has chipped in with a goal and 3 assists as well.

Klas Dahlbeck was part of the Vermette trade and had only played 4 games prior to the deal. The rookie suited up for all 14 of the Coyotes games in March and played an average 19:47 minutes in them. Additionally, Dahlbeck has also pitched in 3 assists.

Mar 14, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) signals to teammates during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the season there was major concern over the play of Mike Smith and with his lengthy contract, it was a problem that he critically needed to play his way out of. Smith’s March record of 3-9-0 is deceiving. In Smith’s first 8 starts of the month, he received 7 total goals of support. In March, Smith played admirably with a 2.42 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.

At the end of the month, the Coyotes sit with a 23-46-8 record, last in the Western Conference. They are 4 points head of the 30th place Buffalo Sabres, who have a game in hand. Although there weren’t many wins, the Coyotes have much to look forward to and much to reevaluate after individual performances in March.