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NHL.com 31 in 31: Arizona Coyotes Key Statistics

Changes in goal, on defense could lead to improvement this season

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

NEW YORK -- NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Arizona Coyotes.

 

1. Goaltending change

The Arizona Coyotes have allowed 769 goals over the past three seasons, the most in the NHL. Although goaltenders aren't solely to blame, the Coyotes believed it was time for a change. After six seasons as Arizona's No. 1 goalie, Mike Smith was traded to the Calgary Flames on June 17. He'll be replaced by Antti Raanta, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers six days later.

The Coyotes may allow fewer goals with Raanta. Over the past three seasons, Raanta's .924 save percentage ranked third among the 61 goalies to play at least 50 NHL games. Smith ranked 45th over the same stretch (.910).

Even when considering only the most difficult shots that were taken right in front of the net, Raanta leads Smith in home plate save percentage .862 to .836, according to my calculations. Those numbers ranked seventh and 45th.

Raanta led the NHL with a quality start percentage of .679 the past three seasons, based on stopping at least a league average number of shots in 38 of his 56 starts, according to data compiled at Hockey Reference. Smith ranked 48th, with a .486 quality start percentage.

2. Shutdown defensive play

In the quest to reduce the number of goals allowed, the Coyotes have made changes to their defense; only Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Kevin Connauton remain from the 2015-16 roster.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski was the big addition in 2016-17. This offseason it was defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on June 23.

Hjalmarsson is classified as a shutdown defenseman, which means he kills penalties, plays predominantly in the defensive zone, and against top competition. 

For each of the past five seasons, Hjalmarsson started a lower percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone than any Blackhawks defenseman (minimum 10 games played) and had a higher average number of shorthanded minutes per game (2:48).

Over the past two seasons, his most frequent opponents were the top scorers among Chicago's Central Division rivals: Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars (92:53), Ryan Johansen of the Nashville Predators (77:44), and Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues (76:47), according to data compiled at Hockey Analysis.

3. Derek Stepan's shorthanded success

Another important way to decrease opposition scoring is to kill penalties more effectively. Over the past four seasons, the Coyotes ranked last with a penalty-killing percentage of .776 and an average of 106.5 shot attempts allowed per 60 minutes, according to calculations at Hockey Analysis.

Hjalmarsson should help reduce those shorthanded shot volumes, and the difference-maker up front could be Derek Stepan, who was acquired in the trade with the Rangers on June 23. Over that four-season time span, New York allowed 84.67 shot attempts per 60 minutes when Stepan was on the ice at 4-on-5, 19th among forwards (minimum 200 minutes), compared to 93.76 when he wasn't.

 

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