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Game #76 – Hawks vs. Coyotes Q&A: Catherine Silverman of Athletic AZ

Catherine Silverman covers the Yotes for The Athletic, as well as working as a goalie expert of In Goal Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @CatMSilverman. This is the Q&A we did with her a couple weeks ago when the Coyotes were here.

The Yotes have hung around the playoff picture, and yet they don’t have anyone who has scored over 42 points. Is this all or mostly Darcy Kuemper‘s resurgence?

So, let me preface this as saying that I think that Darcy Kuemper has been a really solid part of the team this year. He’s had his moments that put your heart in your throat, but he’s internalized the need to play well for the team’s playoff hopes and gotten the job done. 

That being said, I think that the biggest contributor to their success has been their scoring depth. They don’t have anyone over 42 points, but they have 11 players with 20 or more points and 10 players with 10 or more goals. In comparison, the Blackhawks have a 96-point getter, but also only have 10 players with 20 or more points — and they only have eight players with 10 or more goals. It’s why the Dallas Stars have a 61-point player in Tyler Seguin, but are still hanging around Arizona; they only have five players with 10 or more goals. 

While the more top-heavy teams live and die by the success of their stars, Arizona has been getting effective middle-six production from… well, everyone. Add in their injuries (if you project players like Schmaltz, Richardson, Galchenyuk, and Grabner onto an 82-game season, they’d all be sitting on much higher point totals) and their success makes a lot more sense. 

In my opinion

Look, we like Connor Murphy. We may be the only ones, but we’ll hold on. But we can’t help but notice the metrics that Niklas Hjalmarsson is turning in these days. Starting in his own zone most of the time, against the toughest competition, and turning it around. Is that to do with playing with Ekman-Larsson? Because Hammer was starting to turn here before the trade…

I think it has a bit to do with it, but Ekman-Larsson certainly isn’t propping Hjalmarsson up if that’s what you’re insinuating. Isolated on his own, Nik has been one of Arizona’s best players all year; he’s looking incredibly effective, and very much like the player that Chicago initially signed to his current deal. 

It’s possible that the rest from no playoffs last year combined with missed time for injury legitimately gave him enough rest to refuel his tank. Whatever it is, though, he’s looking fantastic.  

We were also Alex Galchenyuk fans and though Arizona got the better of that deal. He’s produced ok, been hurt a bit, but maybe not yet what we were thinking. What is he to someone who watches him far more?

He’s been exactly what the team traded for. After missing the start of the season for injury, he had a bit of a slow start — understandable when coming in with the season in full swing on a brand-new team. 

In the last few months, though, he’s been one of their best players. He’s excellent on the power-play, has 15 goals and 36 points in 57 games (which would be 43 points if he’d missed no time, putting him over that 42-point threshold), and has won 46 percent of his face-offs — his highest percentage in three years. 

Since February 1st, he’s put up seven goals and 11 points in 17 games. If he can continue to perform on the power-play like he has lately — and, frankly, continue to set up plays for Clayton Keller like he has been, even when it doesn’t get him a point on the board — he’ll continue to prove to be a fantastic add for the team. 

Three points out, game in hand on the Wild, 15 to go. Can the Yotes do it?

Three points out and two games in hand now, since the Wild forgot they were playing tonight. But I’d say at this point, it’s really anyone’s game — meaning that I won’t be putting money on Arizona, but I won’t be surprised at all if they make it either. 

Jason Demers is healthy again. Michael Grabner is healthy again. Antti Raanta is getting close. They’ve survived the first of potentially four to six weeks without Derek Stepan, and only lost one game in the process. I think if they put up the kind of performance they did down the back stretch last year, especially with Colorado losing one of their own top-heavy talents and Minnesota and Dallas struggling with consistency, they could easily slip their way in. 


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