Yesterday, the Arizona Coyotes welcomed the return of disgruntled all-star defensemen Jakob Chychrun and forward Nick Schmaltz to the lineup. Their return from injuries helped bolster the lineup at critical junction early in the season. The team had been playing great hockey going 6-6-1 through their first 13 games, only to run into a buzz saw. Facing three elite teams (New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Las Vegas Golden Knights) all on the road.
Those type of matchups kill momentum. Especially three straight road games versus the best in the league. I don’t care which team you are talking about, that stretch of games is brutal.
The Coyotes are at a crossroad. Starting 3-4 on its current (and brutal) 14 game road trip, the addition of these two cornerstone players should inject some life into the team. The early season schedule is really going to make or break this season so thank you for coming back when you did fellas. Just as you could feel things going south, the calvary arrived.
Last night the team dropped a heartbreaker to the Nashville Predators 4-3 in a shootout. If you watched the game though, the presence of Schmaltz and Chychrun was felt. Neither player registered a point on the score sheet, but both were noticeable with their speed, slick passing, critical blocks, and up-tempo style of play. Schmaltz had 18:56 minutes of ice time, and 5 shots on goal. Chychrun played 23:04 minutes and had 2 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocks.
Their return balanced out the scoring lines, and solidified the blue line. Schmaltz immediately joined Travis Boyd and Clayton Keller on the top line, allowing the Nick Bjugstad-Lawson Crouse-Matias Maccelli line to move down to third and feast on Nashville’s easier matchups.
Their presence injected life into a stale lineup.
The four balanced forward lines really made the Coyotes a tough team to face, in spite of the final score. Schmaltz gives the team speed and his presence takes some of the heat off of Keller. Travis Boyd is going to benefit the most from this. Add him to your fantasy hockey rosters while you can.
Jakob Chychrun paired with Shane Gostisbehere giving the team a true top defensemen pairing. His addition allowed JJ Moser to pair with Josh Brown. Moser still led all players in ice time with 24:13 minutes. This team is built from the net out, and they now have an elite pair of blue liners, to go with 4 solid shutdown defensemen.
This must be on the top of Karel Vejmelka’s “what am I thankful for” list.
The Coyotes play Wednesday night in Carolina, Friday night at Detroit, wrap up the busy week with a Sunday matinee in St. Paul, Minnesota.