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The Arizona Coyotes came into the new season with far more questions than answers from the roster, to coaching and the future.
One of the biggest questions coming into the start of the campaign was if Phil Kessel would return to form or continue from one of his worst seasons in his career. If this weekend was any answer, it would be that Phil the Thrill may just be back.
After a sluggish start by the Coyotes to open their first game of the season, the Coyotes clawed back and in true “Scratchin’ and Clawin” fashion the Coyotes took the game down to the wire before Kessel notched his first of the season with less than four seconds to go in regulation. The Coyotes would fall in the shootout but salvaged a point in the opener.
Fast track to Saturday night and while the Coyotes start was a bit slow, it was a much better pace than Thursday night. The Coyotes would fall behind 1-0 off Ryan Donato’s first of the season but never looked back after Kessel would tie the game just past the midway point of the period. Kessel would tack on his third goal of the season early in the second and the Coyotes would go on to cruise to a 5-2 bounce back win against the Sharks at Gila River Arena. It is not just the scoring for Kessel that has been a welcome sign for the Coyotes but also his play away from the puck. He has been all over the ice whether on the forecheck or backchecking into the defensive zone. Away from the puck Kessel has been just as noticeable as when it is on his stick, exactly what the Coyotes need and wanted when bringing in the elite forward.
The line of Nick Schmaltz, Connor Garland and Barrett Hayton also produced and looked stronger as the game progressed after a few rough shifts. Garland has continued to be a solid producer for the Coyotes netting 3 points in his typical tenacious fashion. Add in a scoring punch from Clayton Keller as he appears to be picking up from where he left off in his bubble play, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson driving offense from the point, all signs are pointing to a positive on the scoring front which is a great sign for the Coyotes.