Watching this Phoenix Coyotes team tonight has brought many negative thoughts to mind. But through the beginning of the season, the team has some positives to build on. The captain, Shane Doan is not showing any signs of slowing down. That is the best building block of all for a successful season.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has gotten better and better every game defensively and offensively. The goals are nice to show off on the stat sheet, but he has become more physical in front of his own zone. This will prove to be just as beneficial during the season. This combined with his smooth skating and creative passing out of the defensive zone will prove to be a true duel threat. Fellow defenseman David Schlemko has maintained his strong play from last season. Schlemko will not blow you away with his talent, but he combines speed and creativity from the blue line for a offensively starved hockey team.
Lauri Korpikoski has continued to build on a career year last season. It is only a matter of time before the puck starts ending up in the opposition’s net for Korpikoski. He has used his speed to create consistent scoring opportunities thus far. Boyd Gordon has been a pleasant surprise in the young season. Gordon has come as advertised in the face-off circle. I did not expect much offense out of Gordon, but he seems to have the ability to sustain a solid fore-check. Penalty killing has been a must need from Gordon as well.
If Gordon has been a pleasant surprise, Mike Smith has been a very pleasant surprise. No one doubted that Mike Smith had the talent to become a solid starting goalie, but proving that ability was in doubt. Smith has had little help at times, and has put up admirable statistics. The best quality for Smith has been his excellent position, and endurance through some rapid fires by opponents. Smith’s big body has fit Sean Burke’s coaching style, and so far so good. Things should get a lot smoother between the defenseman and Smith playing the puck.
While things do not seem great right now, the best way to judge a team is when they have reached a peak. Players like Vrbata, Langkow, Boedker and Yandle have hardly hit there strides. The power play for that matter has not clicked yet. But this team has a good make up, but it will take time to fully develop. Grabbing points will be huge early in the season to hang in the playoff race before it is too late.