The Arizona Coyotes have frequently found themselves killing penalties in the first period throughout the month of March.
A common refrain of Arizona Coyotes fans in recent weeks has become “it begins”.
The saying is tied to the Coyotes unfortunate knack for taking penalties in the first period.
If it’s not one penalty in the first few minutes of the game, it’s two or three throughout the course of the first twenty minutes.
Why do the Coyotes take so many early penalties?
Are they slow to start and must work their way into the game? Is it simply a case of poor positioning or bad reads compounding themselves? Is it a mere lack of discipline or the preponderance of youth rearing it’s ugly head over the course of a full season?
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Throughout head coach Dave Tippett’s tenure, the Yotes have typically iced a very disciplined team compared to the league average.
That has not been the case in 2015-16.
The Arizona Coyotes have taken the first penalty of the night in nine of their past 13 games. In seven of those 13 contests the Coyotes took the majority of the penalties in the first period and they split the difference in the first period of two other games.
For those keeping score at home, going back 13 games takes us back to the 6-4 loss to St. Louis at home that kicked off a seven game losing streak. One could argue there is certainly some correlation between the team’s penalty woes and the team ultimately falling out of the playoff picture.
Checking out the league-wide statistics, Martin Hanzal is tied for the 7th-most minor penalties taken in the NHL with 30. Michael Stone is right behind him in 9th with 28.
That’s not a great list to have your name on.
Stone’s presence there is even more concerning than Hanzal’s. The plethora of penalties taken by Stone suggests that the defenseman is often getting beat with speed or by simply being out of position. That issue is magnified further when combined with the Coyotes other defensive woes.
It’s not all doom and gloom on the special teams front, however.
Several of the Coyotes are particularly adept at drawing penalties with their movement and positioning. Opponents have committed 770 penalty minutes when facing the Yotes which is the 5th most in the NHL.
The Arizona Coyotes have actually drawn the most minor penalties (256) in 2015-16. That leaves the team just 34 PIMs in the hole on the season which isn’t terrible considering their horrible, no good, very bad starts.
While the penalty kill took a free-fall as the season progressed and is now ranked 25th worst in the league, the team has fought it’s way back to respectability on the power play after a severe dry spell.
It’s fair to say that the first period has been an adventure for the team throughout the campaign.
A little more jump early combined with a tad more discipline may have made a huge difference for the Arizona Coyotes down the stretch.
There’s still 12 games left for the boys to get it right.