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Coyotes Keys: 3 ways to beat the Devils

© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When the puck drops tomorrow to start their 2023-24 regular season, the Arizona Coyotes will face one of the best teams in the NHL right off the bat, the New Jersey Devils.

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With Devils stars like Jack Hughes, Timo Meier, Dougie Hamilton, Jesper Bratt and more, the Coyotes have a huge test ahead of them for their campaign debut.

Even though New Jersey is the favorite in the matchup after being the third best team in the NHL with a 52-22-8 record and having 112 points last season, the under “Desert Dogs” have a chance to cause an upset tomorrow.

Here are three keys the Coyotes should follow to get a dub in the win column and put two points on the board in the standings:

Key 1: Mitigate Devils Speed

All over their lineup, New Jersey have players that can blow past their opposition.

Centers Hughes, Dawson Mercer and Nico Hischier, and wingers Alexander Holtz and Jesper Bratt are some of the dangerous players on the Devils that bring the speed.

What the Coyotes need to do is slow these players down by breaking up passing lanes and get a stick on the puck.

These players thrive on acceleration that turns into speed, so if the Coyotes always have a player in their lane, they have nowhere to go.

Being a step ahead with knowing where the Devils will pass to will also be beneficial as they can turn on the jets when receiving the puck.

Obviously, it ain’t as easy as it sounds, but speed kills and the Coyotes need to understand that New Jersey’s game is all around speed.

Key 2: Defend, Defend, Defend

When watching the Devils, they can score at will.

Last year, New Jersey were third in the NHL in goals scored with 289, only the Edmonton Oilers and league-best Boston Bruins had more in the regular season.

In a breakout year, Hughes scored 43 goals and 56 assists for 99 points in 78 games.

Team captain, Hischier, had 31 goals and assisted 49 times for 80 points in 81 games.

Meier has arguably one of the best shots in the league and he scored 40 goals last campaign, splitting time with the Devils and San Jose Sharks.

Even players like Bratt and Mercer had 32 and 27 goals, respectively.

At the point, Devils defenseman Hamilton had himself an incredible year with 22 goals and 52 assists in all 82 games in the 2022-23 season.

The message is clear, New Jersey can score, and for fun.

So, how to stop an offensive onslaught from happening is being physical and drive the Devils players out wide.

Since the majority of New Jersey’s lineup is 6’2″ and below, the Coyotes have to hit and be aggressive against one of the smaller teams in the league.

Look for a player like Liam O’Brien to be in Arizona’s lineup tomorrow on the fourth line.

He may not score a ton, but with 203 hits, expect O’Brien to be a physical presence on the ice.

If the Coyotes defenseman keep this dangerous Devils team out of the middle, they will have a lesser chance to score.

Give New Jersey a chance in the slot, and 90% or more of the time, they will punish.

Key 3: Fire Shots on Goal

Even though the Devils starting goalie Vitek Vanecek had a 33-11-4 record last year, warning signs in the playoffs can show that maybe the Coyotes have chance to put some pucks in the back of the net.

After going 1-3 in the playoffs with a miserable .825 save percentage (.900+ is good), Vanecek was replaced by Akira Schmid in the playoffs.

Same could happen this season if Vanecek struggles, but he is expected to start.

The stat that is the most glaring is his rebounds-per-saves with a 0.047.

Only one other goalie had given up more rebounds after saves in 50+ played games, with a 0.045 from Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger.

This means that Vanecek gives up the second most amount of rebounds out of most starting goalies in the league.

It doesn’t matter where the Coyotes can shoot, trying to get a player in front of the net with rebound possibilities is a must.

With as many shots on goal, there will be golden opportunities for Arizona to capitalize and score.

Knowing that the oppositions goalie is known for letting pucks out, any shot is a good shot on Vanecek.

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Alec Cipollini is a journalist covering the Arizona Coyotes, Cardinals and Phoenix Rising for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his new X account @AlecCipollini

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