Coyotes look to win first 3 for first time since 2003
The Arizona Coyotes are cautious about reading too much into their 2-0-0 start, but if they can keep stacking up wins, they'll have something to talk about.
The Coyotes are back in action Wednesday night (7 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona) against the Anaheim Ducks, whose 0-1-1 start is as much a turnaround as the Coyotes, only in the opposite direction.
The Coyotes have won their first three games only once since relocating to Arizona in 1996 -- in 2003-04. To duplicate that feat, they'll have to reverse their recent history against the Ducks. They are 2-8 vs. Anaheim in the last 10 meetings, and both victories have come in shootouts. Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen posted a 1.16 goals against average in five starts vs. the Coyotes last year.
To a man, the Coyotes have praised the stellar play of goaltender Mike Smith, who is trying to rebound from the worst season of his career (42 losses and a 3.16 goals against average). Smith was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week after stopping 67 of 69 shots in the two victories.
Smith and coach Dave Tippett also have been quick to credit a "heavier" presence in front of the net, in particular pointing to off-season acquisition Nicklas Grossmann.
"It's two games," Smith said. "I hope to continue the good play. It's nice, but more importantly we've played better as a team and we're doing a lot of good things in front of me. It starts there."
The Coyotes have killed all eight penalties through the first two games and held a 39-28 shots advantage in Saturday's 2-1 victory over the Penguins.
Despite going 0 for 7 on the power play, Phoenix has had five players score its six goals. Rookie Jordan Martinook recorded his first in 10 career games Saturday.
"It's incredible to have an impact on the team, that's what I want to accomplish every night," Martinook said. "Some nights it's not going to be scoring goals, but when you get to score a goal it's pretty special."
The Ducks (0-1-1) have managed only a goal from defenseman Sami Vatanen through two games, failing to record 30 shots either time. However, Anaheim isn't panicking while trying to avoid dropping its first three games for the first time since 2010-11.
"I think we're doing things the right way now," said Vatanen, who scored a career-high 12 goals in 67 games last season. "The season is long, so we're going the right way."
Anaheim has only had three power-play chances, and though its 56 shots are less than desirable, the effort can't be denied. Both coach Bruce Boudreau and his players felt the team took a step in the right direction with Monday's 2-1 shootout loss to Vancouver.
"At times, we were all over them," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "I don't think the shot total dictated the pressure in their end. We didn't get enough shots on net, but nonetheless, I thought we controlled the game for the most part."