In mere hours, Taylor Hall will suit up for his fifth game as a member of the Arizona Coyotes. Hall’s new team has a chance to fatten its Pacific Division lead against the (mostly) rising Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.
Don’t blame Hall if he’s still trying to find his rhythm, and footing.
Consider that the New Jersey Devils sat Hall as they ramped up their efforts to trade him, ultimately finding a deal with Arizona. Hall waited a week between games, needing to catch a “red eye” flight to debut for the Coyotes in a win against the Sharks on Dec. 17.
Other factors likely messed with Hall’s equilibrium.
So far, the Coyotes only played one home game (against the Wild on Dec. 19), not that “home” is home yet for Hall, anyway.
While the holiday break provided a crucial opportunity for rest, Hall probably feels like he’s still trying to dance to a strange, unfamiliar beat. Really, these factors only strengthen the logic behind trading for a player sooner rather than later. Ideally, the Coyotes will get Hall fully up to speed long before most other teams make their late “rentals.”
Factoring in all of those caveats underscores how impressive Hall’s first four games have been. Let’s break down his start, going deeper than one goal and two primary assists.
Dec. 17: Coyotes beat Sharks 3-2 (Hall gets first assist)
Using Natural Stat Trick’s handy game logs, you can see that this was the only game so far where Hall was really under water from a shot-share perspective.
Even then, Hall showed why the Coyotes acquired him by combining power and skill to set up Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s game-winning goal:
“He had maybe four hours of sleep, travels cross country, and he hasn’t played in about a week. Not bad for that situation,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet after that game, via NHL.com. “If he plays like that for not having much sleep, imagine what he can do with some real rest.”
Dec. 19: Wild beat Coyotes 8-5 (Another assist)
Hall has avoided the line blender so far, spending the majority of his even-strength time with Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel. If that alignment boosts Kessel and opens up easier matchups for the likes of Clayton Keller, it could be quite the boon for Arizona.
While this marked Hall’s first loss with the Coyotes, he made an impact, firing five SOG and finishing this nice takeaway by Dvorak by setting up Kessel:
The Coyotes lost Darcy Kuemper to injury, so it was clearly not a great overall night for Arizona.
Dec. 22: Coyotes beat Red Wings 5-2 (First Hall goal with Arizona)
Despite limited ice time (14:16 TOI), Hall made an impact. He fired four SOG, with his first Coyotes goal coming on a booming shot:
Dec. 23: Predators win against Coyotes 3-2 (First time Hall hasn’t scored a point for Arizona)
Looking at only the simplest stats, this seems like a rough night for Hall specifically. He failed to score a point, and finished with a -2 rating.
Delve deeper and Hall comes across as a positive influence. The Predators dominated possession, but Hall broke even. Hall also showed signs that he could click with Derek Stepan and Vinnie Hinostroza if need be.
After Hall’s debut, Tocchet told NHL Now that he didn’t want Hall to get “system’d to death” upon arriving with the Coyotes. If Arizona leans toward a slow trickle instead of a deluge, maybe we’ll see more of the benefits of that osmosis starting with Saturday’s game against the Golden Knights?
Ultimately, it’s already been a pretty strong start for Hall in Arizona.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.