Boedker’s breathtaking pace a positive sign for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mikkel Boedker is on pace for 137 goals this season. We’re guessing he’ll fall short of that total.

"It’s going to even out eventually," he said with a grin. "But obviously when you’re hot, things tend to go in."

Boedker is magma. The 24-year-old forward got every sort of roll Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers to record his first career hat trick in a wild, 7-4 win at Gila River Arena.

He scored on a partial breakaway off another jaw-dropping stretch pass from defenseman Keith Yandle. He scored a critical goal after the Oilers had cut the lead to 4-3 early in the third period when his seeing-eye backhander dipped and found its way through Edmonton goalie Ben Scrivens. And he scored into an empty net with 27 seconds left to complete the milestone.

Boedker has five goals in three games, tying him with Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds for second in the NHL, one behind the New York Rangers’ Rick Nash. 

"He gets lots of opportunity playing on a line with (Antoine) Vermette and (Shane) Doan," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We’re counting on him to have a big year. It’s good to see him be off to a real good start."

With Radim Vrbata off to Vancouver and Mike Ribeiro off to Nashville, the Coyotes lost two of their top five scorers from a season ago. Tippett and GM Don Maloney always lean on the idea of scoring by committee when asked how the Coyotes will fill the void, but a bunch of 15-goal scorers won’t cut it in the Western Conference. The Coyotes need a few prime-time scorers and Boedker is one of the best candidates.

"In training camp this year everyone was talking about it," captain Shane Doan said. "Everyone said all along how he has the capabilities of being special because he skates so well, he’s so strong on the puck and he’s got an unbelievable shot."

Coyotes 7, Oilers 4

The problem with Boedker in the past was deference to veterans, Doan said.

"He’s so overly respectful to everybody," Doan said. "But now, as he becomes the guy, he expects the puck; he wants the puck. He’s getting the puck in situations where he wouldn’t have demanded it."

The stretch pass from Yandle is one example — one that has occurred in each of the past two games. Boedker saw an open space, used his strong skating ability to burst into it and receive the pass, and then used his speed like he loves to do on shootout attempts.

"When he gets opportunities he’s capitalizing," Tippett said. "That was a big plus for us tonight."

The Coyotes needed it because they were loose on the back end again. Mike Smith returned in goal and actually played pretty well despite the final score. But two turnovers by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and some shoddy play all around had Tippett growling despite the result.

"I would have liked to see us be more sound," he said. "We got away with it tonight but it was a sloppy game."

That’s the great thing about skill. It allows you to erase mistakes. Every playoff team in the West has it in some form or another. 

The Coyotes absolutely have to play better than they did Wednesday. Edmonton is good medicine for most opponents. The Oilers have allowed 23 goals in four games.

Any time the Coyotes gave the Oilers chances, Edmonton was all too happy to return the favor in spades, allowing Tippett to move to 16-2-3 against the Oilers since arriving in the Valley in 2009.

That won’t be the case with most opponents. The Coyotes will need to clamp down, but it would be nice to have a couple forwards who can rescue them if they don’t.

"I don’t think you consciously look to take over because we have so many great leaders in this locker room," Boedker said. "But you grow older and you get more comfortable in this league. You know what’s working and what isn’t.

"I’m not a boy any more. You gain some weight, you gain some strength and some balance. You get a bit better and bit wiser. Hopefully I can keep it going."

If he does, it would be awfully good timing for a team in transition. And it would be awfully good timing for a young player looking to solidify his standing in the league. 

After a lengthy negotiation, Boedker signed a two-year, $5.1 million deal with the Coyotes before the 2013-14 season, but he will be a restricted free agent when this season ends.

Opportunity awaits.

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