The Arizona Coyotes didn’t have forward Nick Schmaltz but for 17 of his total 40 games last season due to injury. The team thought so much of his future that they signed him to a seven-year $40.95 million contract in March.
Nick Schmaltz is Back on Track
He’s starting to pay dividends. After going scoreless in his first two games and perhaps shaking off the dust on his scoring prowess, Schmaltz has scored three goals and two assists in his last three games.
His knee injury left him on the sidelines since the end of December 2018 and this is exactly the reason the Coyotes traded Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini to get him in the desert. He’s currently on a line with Christian Dvorak and Conor Garland and they are creating some good chemistry.
He may be a natural centre, but putting him on the wing with a creative centre like Dvorak has paid off recently. In the Winnipeg Jets game on Tuesday night, Schmaltz assisted on Garland’s third goal of the campaign and then got a helper on Dvorak’s second goal of the contest.
He also scored on a beautiful wrist shot from near the right circle finding a seam and with newly acquired Carl Soderberg blocking any chance that Connor Hellebuyck could see the puck let alone stop it.
Finding the Right Line Combinations
Head coach Rick Tocchet had to decide what line combinations would work best with some new additions to his roster. It seems like Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller being on Derek Stepan‘s wings has worked very well for the top line. If Schmaltz continues his scoring clout and his linemates follow suit, they may become the top scoring line on the team. They have already accumulated eight of the team’s 11 goals. While 11 goals for has the Coyotes in 28th place in the NHL, they stand first in goals against allowing a stingy nine goals in five games.
The other statistic which stands out is the Schmaltz/Dvorak/Garland line is shooting a combined 29.53 percent accuracy. So not only are they scoring they’re finding the back of the net with accuracy. Of course, it’s early in the season and these numbers are going to change with each game played.
Nick Schmaltz Early Season Success
The Coyotes have had some early season success against some good quality teams. Defeating teams like the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets is not an easy task. The Colorado Avalanche barely squeezed by them in overtime.
The Desert Dogs face another playoff quality team when the Nashville Predators come to Gila River Arena on Thursday night. If Schmaltz and company can solve goalie Pekka Rinne, we could see the team move in the right direction. Their shaky 0-2 start where they lost one-goal games, but still played competitive hockey, can be a distant memory.
Playing Without Niklas Hjalmarsson
This team faced nothing but diversity last season with injuries like Schmaltz’s debilitating their resources and yet they almost got to the playoffs. While the loss of Hjalmarsson is significant, they now have called up youngster Kyle Capobianco to fill the void on the blueline. He is not anything near Hjalmarsson’s veteran level of a player but this is his chance to shine and stay with the team.
If Nick Schmaltz can play anything near the way he has played the last several games, the Coyotes will have a good start to the new season. They also will have another line other than the top line to show some offensive firepower which has been missing over a long period of time. Getting Schmaltz to shoot the puck or set up his linemates can go a long way in determining the outcome of the 2019-20 season… and for that matter the postseason.