Coaches like to explain how “special teams” production is vital to overall success.
Teams with a penchant for power-play goals are often found at the top of conference standings. As well, teams with the ability to kill off penalties are considered solid defensive contingents.
In the quest to add production and spice up the power play, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett is experimenting. Using different wingers with different centers and a variety of players at the point, the hope is to shake the Coyotes into greater production.
Still, early results indicate special teams are off to a mediocre start.
In their 4-3 overtime loss to Ottawa Oct. 15, the Coyotes' ability to kill penalties and to score with the man advantage was about equal.
Coming into play Thursday night, Phoenix was 14th in the league in power-play production and 21st in killing penalties. With the man disadvantage, the Coyotes have allowed seven goals, and only Minnesota (29th in the league) and Edmonton (30th) have allowed more power-play goals. The Wild and Oilers have each surrendered eight goals while skating shorthanded.
Probably more important to Tippett is his power-play production.
Through their first seven games, the Coyotes have pumped in five goals on 24 attempts, good for a 20.8 percent average.
Against the Senators in their last game, power-play production came under criticism. Though the Coyotes scored once in four attempts, there were two other opportunities in which they had no shots on net combined.
“You want to put out people who will have an impact,” Tippett said. “(Against Ottawa), we had no impact players.”
In earlier games, Tippett used center Mike Ribeiro as a lightning rod to generate production. Without quantified results, Tippett placed Ribeiro on the left wing with Martin Hanzal at center and Radim Vrbata on the right wing. That combination produced next to no results, so Tippett went back to the drawing board.
In the recent offseason, Tippett clearly addressed the issue of special teams production. His direction resulted in hiring Newell Brown to work on the power play. Brown, who previously served as an assistant coach with Vancouver, Anaheim, Columbus and Chicago, has yet to work any magic with the man advantage.
Though Ribeiro’s goal on the power play tied the Senators game late in the third period and sent the contest into overtime, the Coyotes' execution with the man advantage remains a “work in progress.”
“Right now, we need to gain a level of consistency,” said defenseman Michael Stone. “(Against Ottawa), we came out sluggish and were fortunate to have the game tied at end of the first period.”
That could also be said for special teams play.
Sitting at 14th best on the power play and 21st best in penalty killing does not sit well with Tippett. A proud coach, Tippett likes to place the offense, defense and special teams in perspective.
“You have to find a way to win,” he said after the Ottawa game. “Whether you’re coming off a long road trip or had a few days of rest, the bottom line is the same. You should always have the ability to win every game.”
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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