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Q&A: Kendall Coyne Schofield on impact of NHL Skills participation, 2019 Women’s Worlds

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EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — It’s been a busy two months for U.S. national team forward Kendall Coyne Schofield. Since her participation in the Fastest Skater competition during the 2019 NHL Skills in San Jose she’s appeared on NBCSN, NHL Network and FOX Sports West as an analyst, spoke on a handful of panels, partnered with adidas and CCM Hockey, played in the Rivalry Series three-game set against Canada, and helped lead the NWHL’s Minnesota Whitecaps to the Isobel Cup.

Now that life has settled down a bit, Coyne Schofield and her U.S. teammates are on Long Island for training camp ahead of the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Finland from April 4-14. The Americans have won seven of the last eight gold medals at the event, all against Canada, and are gunning for their fifth title in a row.

“It’s been busy but it’s been extremely exciting,” Coyne Schofield told Pro Hockey Talk on Wednesday. “We’re seeing the game grow before our eyes and I think that’s what’s so exciting about everything that has happened from All-Star Weekend.”

Days after clocking in a Fastest Skater time of 14.226 and beating out Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes, Coyne Schofield was on-air during an NBCSN broadcast between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. While she reached out to a few people for advice beforehand, veterans in the business like our own Kathryn Tappen and FOX’s Laura Okmin provided some support.

She’s since done the same role for a few other games and enjoyed the experience.

“It’s been awesome. I love it,” she said. “It’s so fun to talk about the game that I’m so passionate about, that I love. Just to be able to dissect a hockey game for an audience and for people who love hockey is so much fun.”

As for what’s next, well, that’s a question to be answered after the Worlds. Coyne Schofield said she’s keeping her focus at the moment on helping the U.S. capture gold once again.

We caught up with Coyne Schofield after the team’s opening practice to talk about the impact of her NHL Skills participation, the growth of women’s hockey internationally, and more.

Enjoy.

PHT: During your post-Skills press conference you talked about how your participation would break barriers and change perception about women in hockey. Since then, what’s been the reaction you’ve received in your travels and on social media from young girls and women who saw your Fastest Skater loop?

COYNE SCHOFIELD: “The reaction has been extremely uplifting. Everyone’s seen it, whether it’s directed at me or directed at our game, it’s been extremely positive and eye-opening. I think some people never knew women’s hockey existed before they saw a woman skating a lap on the NHL platform. It’s been amazing but extremely awesome to see all these young girls aspiring to dream big and do something that they never thought could be done before. I think that’s what’s so special.”

PHT: Seeing you, Brianna Decker, Renata Fast, and Rebecca Johnston there taking part opened some eyes around the NHL, and brought up the idea that maybe in the future women could participate fully in All-Star Weekend.

COYNE SCHOFIELD: “Absolutely. I think that’s what was so special about that moment is it opened a lot of doors. In my opinion, the sky’s the limit to this point. I was the first one to compete in one event, but there’s multiple events, there’s a game. The sky’s the limit after the stance the NHL decided to take that night, which I’m so grateful for and I know our sport is grateful for as well. We worked so hard to be put in the conversation to have that moment, and it was just me skating, but it was everyone who allowed that moment to happen in our sport. I hope we see a 3-on-3 team one day and see women competing in every event because there’s so many spectacular players that belong.”

PHT: The Women’s Worlds added two more teams and is up to 10 for the tournament this year. How have you seen the competition improve outside of the U.S./Canada rivalry since your first year playing internationally?

COYNE SCHOFIELD: “It’s grown tremendously. [Going from 8 to 10 teams], that shows the growth, and it’s not just U.S. and Canada anymore. A lot of people have that perception, but if they turn on a game — and our games will be on NHL Network, so they can do that — they’ll notice that the game has grown throughout the entire world.”

PHT: The U.S. has won seven of the previous eight gold medals, all against Canada. You play them in the second game. How important is it to get that game in early in the tournament?

COYNE SCHOFIELD: “It’s important. It’s a game you look forward to but you have to take it one game at a time. You can’t look past Finland in their home country at the World Championship stage. We’re focused on Finland for Game 1 and then we’ll shift our focus to Canada. It’s a long tournament, and we get an extra game — more hockey, which is super exciting. We’re really looking forward to it because it’s year one of four, and whoever’s there in year four, we’re consistently building starting year one to peak in year four.”

PHT: What are the biggest strengths of this group?

COYNE SCHOFIELD: “It’s everyone’s compete level, everyone’s will to want to win, and everyone’s so proud to represent Team USA. It’s such a good, hard-working group, whether it’s your first World Championship or their 10th, everyone’s here for the same goal and everyone’s able to own their role. It’s just an awesome group to be a part of.”

PHT: Sometimes new blood is good for a team but this is a very veteran team. That has to be big for the group in order to keep the momentum of the last few years going.

COYNE SCHOFIELD: “Oh, definitely. For a while we felt like we were chasing and now we feel like we’re the ones being chased. As veteran players, we need to make sure the younger players don’t feel like younger players because they’re not. If you made it to this level you’re not a younger player, you’re an elite level player and you belong here. Everyone can bring their own special talent and we put it all together and that’s what makes us Team USA and the best team in the world.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kuemper’s outstanding 2019 is driving Coyotes’ playoff push

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Plenty has been written about the resiliency the Arizona Coyotes have shown in fighting through injuries during their stunning ascent into what’s currently a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That’s been the case at PHT, for sure, as Sean Leahy’s been able to go in-depth with both coach Rick Tocchet and GM John Chayka regarding those challenges. It’s understandable, as Tocchet described the Coyotes’ rash of injuries as something he’s never seen during his “30-something years” in the NHL.

But, to me, the true story of the Coyotes’ rise comes down to one goalie: Darcy Kuemper.

Kuemper clearly made some New Year’s resolutions

Since Feb. 19, the Coyotes’ 20 points leads all NHL teams, yet they’ve been outshot 401-357 during that same time. They’ve generally been a bottom-third team from a possession stats standpoint this season, and they actually slipped further during this 10-2-0 run.

While the Coyotes have done a better job of winning the high-danger scoring chance battle than they have the overall shot share struggle, Kuemper’s still far-and-away the difference.

During this run, Kuemper’s 10 wins tower over the pack, as the closest since Feb. 19 are a handful of goalies with seven victories. His .943 save percentage sparkles, too.

However, there might be a reflex to wave that off as a matter of small sample sizes. Interestingly, it really seems as though Kuemper became a new goalie once the calendar hit 2019.

Since Jan. 1, Kuemper’s topped all goalies with 19 wins, and he’s collected a stellar .930 save percentage over 27 games played. That’s a resounding turnaround for a goalie whose save percentage was under .900 between November and December.

Kuemper’s pivotal work wasn’t lost on Chayka, as he praised the goalie during that March 8 PHT interview.

“This is the story of our season,” Chayka said. “A guy gets an opportunity they might not of otherwise had with some of the injuries and he steps up and elevates his game. He’s been a big story for us. He’s been a rock for us back there. He gives the guys a lot of confidence and allows them to go and play their game …”

When it was clear by December that Antti Raanta would be out for most, if not all, of the 2018-19 season, I plainly wondered if the Coyotes had any hope of making a playoff push.

There was a feeling of sadness there, as Chayka seemed to identify Raanta as a goalie with high-end starter talent, but maybe not the body (or at least the health luck) to withstand such a workload. Kuemper’s run argues that Chayka actually identified two difference-makers in net.

Who has been scoring?

Kuemper stands as Exhibits A through Z on why the Coyotes are enjoying this meteoric rise, but let’s ponder a few other factors.

Interestingly, there’s only one Coyotes skater who’s been a point-per-game player during this 10-2-0 run over 12 games. With Thursday’s natural hat trick, Vinnie Hinostroza now has 12 points in as many games. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the only other player with double-digits points during that span with 10.

You’d think that Clayton Keller (seven points) and Alex Galchenyuk (four) would have been bigger parts of this jump up the standings, but the Coyotes have instead been scoring by committee … and, of course, mainly keeping other teams from scoring. They only allowed 25 goals during this stretch, just a touch over two goals per game.

(Blurts out Kuemper.)

Interesting tests ahead

While the Coyotes began to heat up during a three-game road trip (losing in Calgary on Feb. 18, then beginning to catch steam with two away victories), they’ve generally played quite a bit at home. The Coyotes went 6-1-0 during a seven-game homestand from Feb. 24 – March 9, forming a big part of this hot streak.

It should be interesting, then, to see how they handle a mixed bag remaining schedule.

On one hand, the slate features quite a few games against non-playoff teams. That’s especially true if the Blackhawks feel less spry by March 26, and the Avalanche find themselves far out of the mix by March 29.

Regardless, after Saturday’s home game against the Oilers, face a four-game road trip, and play five of six away from Glendale from March 21-29.

That’s not the sort of stretch that automatically spells doom, yet it might serve as a challenge for a team that’s sometimes winning by thin margins. (Then again, their last two wins were by 6-1 and 3-1, so maybe they’re heating up on offense, too?)

***

Pointing out how Kuemper-driven Arizona’s run has been isn’t meant to condemn the Coyotes’ efforts. Considering all of their injuries, how else would you realistically expect a team that’s not exactly star-studded to win games?

The Coyotes have built themselves a bit of a buffer ahead of bubble teams like the Wild (get the lowdown at Push for the Playoffs), to the point that they have a strong chance of holding onto a spot.

If they pull this off, Kuemper would really push Jordan Binnington and Nikita Kucherov for (the imaginary) second-half MVP.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Q&A: Coyotes GM John Chayka on dealing with injuries, Tocchet’s influence

Winners of eight of their last 10 games, the Arizona Coyotes have crawled up the Western Conference standings and have surprisingly played their way into the wild card race. With a roster that is second in the NHL with over 300 man-games lost to injury, they currently sit three points behind the Minnesota Wild with a game in-hand.

In the thick of the wild card race, you won’t find Coyotes general manager checking his phone to see the out-of-town scoreboard or updated standings on a nightly basis, however.

“You know what, we’ve got so many things going on here, and our guys have been on a roll that I just know if we keep taking care of things and keep winning we’ll be in a good spot,” Chayka told Pro Hockey Talk on Friday. “I can honestly tell you I don’t do a ton of scoreboard watching.”

While only three of their final 11 games in March are against teams currently occupying playoff positions, every game for the last few weeks has been “playoff mode” for the Coyotes. Fortunately for them, the players have stepped as injuries ravaged the lineup, including Darcy Kuemper, who’s played a career high in games (41) this season after Antti Raanta went down.

“This is the story of our season,” Chayka said. “A guy gets an opportunity they might not of otherwise had with some of the injuries and he steps up and elevates his game. He’s been a big story for us. He’s been a rock for us back there. He gives the guys a lot of confidence and allows them to go and play their game. Credit to [head coach Rick Tocchet], too, because he’s got the guys playing a very detail-oriented system, limiting chances and when there are chances given up, obviously Darcy’s done a nice job of stopping them. Any time you get a guy like that to step up, a goalie, be a No. 1 and stop as many pucks as he has, it’s a good thing for us.”

We spoke to Chayka about the Coyotes dealing with injuries, his approach to the NHL trade deadline, Dylan Strome’s success in Chicago and more.

Enjoy.

Q. What’s impressed you most about your team this season and the way they’ve taken to the “next man up” mentality with all the injuries?

CHAYKA: “Just the leadership, and as a result, the resiliency. Rick Tocchet’s the ultimate leader of our team as a head coach. He hasn’t wavered, he hasn’t complained, he hasn’t felt sorry for us the next day after a big injury or two — it just seemed like every day we were getting a different one. He’s done a great job of keeping guys steady and obviously, [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson, first year as captain, new role. Some guys have trouble with it, some guys excel. I think he’s excelled. Him and Tocc together have been a great leadership duo through the good times and the bad here.”

Q. Was there a point this season where another guy went down and you’re like, ‘Come on, really?'”

CHAYKA: “Yeah, I lost count after a certain number. You know, injuries are part of the game. I think we did everything in our power in the off-season to add as much depth as possible in the event that you lose some guys. It’s not just the number of games lost, it’s really been the combinations of premium position players that have gone down. That’s been the frustrating part, but everyone deals with injuries. I think our guys have done a helluva job of managing it and staying steady. Now we’re in a place where we’re getting some guys back, too, and ready to make a push. It’s out of your control, for the most part, so you deal with it.”

Q. Are you surprised that with 300-plus man games lost you’re right in the mix for a wild card spot this late in the year?

CHAYKA: “If you had told me that was the case when we were perfectly healthy we probably would have taken that, too. We’ve shown great improvement year over year. Our young players continue to get better and continue to drive us and we want to play meaningful games down the stretch here and get ourselves a chance to play in the playoffs. We’ve had to weather the storm a little bit through the year. In a lot of ironic ways it’s been a really good season and hopefully our guys can have a good run down the stretch here and get us in.”

Q. You don’t want to make a panic move in response to injuries, but were you a little more aggressive around the trade deadline in seeking out some additional help to try and boost this chase for a playoff spot?

CHAYKA: “We worked hard at the deadline. We had a lot of conversations. We looked to improve our group. I think the key was that we’ve got a group here that’s done a good job and got us this far and in order to improve on our group we had to get a really good player. The status quo with some of these guys that come up, the [Conor] Garlands and the [Mario] Kempes and [Lawson] Crouses have elevated their games, and [Josh] Archibald’s been one of our better players the last number of games here. If someone was coming in to displace a player, they had to be a really good player. We wanted to do something that could make sense for now and in the future. We were willing to do some moves that we thought would part with significant futures, but it had to be the right fit, and unfortunately we weren’t able to find something that made sense. But again, we believe in this group. They’ve brought us this far and we thought we owed it to them to see it through and allow them to sink or swim, and so far they’ve been doing a heckuva job.”

Q. A number of players on the roster are young and have yet to experience playoff hockey. Playoffs or not this season, the intensity of the games of late has to be providing them with some valuable experience going forward.

CHAYKA: “Yeah, the last few months the [Jakob] Chychruns, the Kellers, the [Christian] Dvoraks, the [Christian] Fischers, Garlands, they’re all learning a lot and they’re learning by trial by fire right now. It’s great and it’s good experience for them. But I also know that these are guys that we selected for a reason and made them a part of our core future because they won at all levels, they expect to win, they expect to be the best, and they’re not taking anything for granted down the stretch. They want to get in, they want to be the best and that’s what drives these guys, and that’s why I think we’ll have success.”

Q. Do you look at what Dylan Strome has done in Chicago since the trade, and even Max Domi in Montreal, and ask yourself, ‘Did we give up on them too early?’

CHAYKA: “Our goal through trades is you draft players that you can draft and develop, but at some point you’re drafting for asset value and you’ve got to put together a team. You’re trying to find the right combination and right chemistry for your group. Obviously with Alex Galchenyuk, you get a pure goal scorer, a guy that can shoot them with the best in the league. There were many times last year where we were in a tight game, 1-1, with five minutes left and we get a chance and we can’t score and the other team gets a chance and their guys score and we lose the game. This year the tables have turned in that sense where Alex and Vinnie Hinostroza, some of these guys have come in and they’ve made a big play at the right time and that’s what we were looking for.

“You get a young scorer like Alex, [that] was something we were after and you’ve got to give to get. The same thing with Nick Schmaltz. With our system, with our style of play, we felt like speed through the middle of the ice is a rare asset and [he’s] a guy that can not only skate but make plays and make his teammates better and linemates better and think at a very high level and skate with a guy like Clayton Keller. We thought that that was something that really aligned with our vision of how we wanted to build out our team. 

“We traded some good players and we got some good players in return. The end result will be what our group does here and so far we’ve been able to string together a really good stretch of games with a really good team. That was our goal in making those trades.”

Q. What characteristics did you see in Rick Tocchet that made him your No. 1 choice when seeking a head coach?

CHAYKA: “I don’t think people know who good of a coach this guy is. Just to see him day in, day out with what he’s capable of doing. His ability to wear many different hats and do it in a way that is very genuine, I think that’s been the key. He’s a hard-driving guy. He wants to win, he’s passionate, he’s won at all levels and won at the highest level in his career as a player and a coach. He knows what it takes and wants to impress upon our group what it does take. When I was hiring a head coach I was looking for a partnership, someone that can come in and I can work with that had a shared vision that I could trust. I’ve allowed Tocc to run his team and develop the systems and culture he thought would be best and so far he’s done a phenomenal job of that. 

“He doesn’t get enough credit for turning around a culture and a franchise and getting us on the right track and getting the most out of his players every single night. That’s what he’s done.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kendall Coyne Schofield talks All-Star Skills, bubble hockey with Penguins’ Dumoulin

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Prior to setting a blistering time around the rink at the NHL All-Star Skills this past weekend, Kendall Coyne Schofield made sure Connor McDavid was in the same boat as she was.

“I asked him if he was nervous,” Coyne Schofield told the broadcast team on NBCSN prior to Wednesday Night Hockey. “He said he was, so that made me feel a little better. I got to the starting line and the crowd just erupted.”

The chants of ‘USA, USA’ and the rest of the yelling and screaming help propel Coyne around the rink, and then it came: a 14.346-second lap, just a second off McDavid’s time and faster that Arizona’s Clayton Keller, who also participated.

“It was go time,” she said.

McDavid may have won the event, but Coyne Schofield won the hearts of the hockey community.

Coyne, who currently plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), became the first woman to compete in an NHL All-Star Skills and along with fellow U.S. National team member Briana Decker who participated in the Premier Passer event, stole the show.

In fact, it was so inspiring that NBC hired Coyne Schofield to be an analyst on Wednesday night during the game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“This past weekend has just been incredible,” she said. “Just to see the barriers that have been broken, the historic moment that was made and the response… just seeing all of those messages, young girls picking up skates for the first time, young boys saying I want to be as fast as her. It changed the way society views women and specifically women and girl’s hockey. It’s just been tremendous.”

Part of Coyne Schofield’s assignment on Wednesday was playing a little bubble hockey with Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin.

She won, of course.

The two have a little in common. Coyne Schofield attended Northeastern while Dumoulin attended rival Boston College. Both played in the Beanpot Tournament, which pits Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University and Northeastern in a two-round tournament for state bragging rights.

Dumoulin is a three-time winner of the tourney, while Coyne Schofield won it twice.

Coyne Schofield will go between the glass with Pierre McGuire during Wednesday’s game, along with providing analysis during both intermissions with play-by-play man, John Forslund.

Her chance to shine isn’t too far off, either.

Coyne Schofield and the rest of her USA teammates are gearing up for the 2019 Rivalry Series against Canada. The three-game series takes place in Toronto and London, Ont., with the final in taking place at Little Caesars Arena on Feb. 17 as part of Hockey Week Across America.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: 2019 NHL All-Star Game on NBC

The 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center in San Jose on Saturday night on NBC, with four teams vying to share a $1 million prize.

Coverage gets underway at 8 p.m ET, with puck drop between the Central Division all-stars and the Pacific Division all-stars set for 8:15 p.m. ET. That game will be followed by the Metropolitan Division all-stars battling the Atlantic Division all-stars.

The winners of both games will square off for a deciding third game, with a cool $1 million on the line.

[WATCH LIVE – NHL ALL-STAR GAME 8 P.M. ET – NBC]

Atlantic Division

F Jack Eichel, BUF
F Nikita Kucherov, TBL
F Auston Matthews, TOR
F Jeff Skinner, BUF
F David Pastrnak, BOS
F Steven Stamkos, TBL
F John Tavares, TOR
D Thomas Chabot, OTT
D Keith Yandle, FLA
G Jimmy Howard, DET
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL
Coach: Jon Cooper, TBL

Metropolitan Division

F Sebastian Aho, CAR
F Cam Atkinson, CBJ
F Mathew Barzal, NYI
F Sidney Crosby, PIT
F Claude Giroux, PHI
F Kyle Palmieri, NJD
D John Carlson, WSH
D Seth Jones, CBJ
D Kris Letang, PIT
G Braden Holtby, WSH
G Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Coach: Todd Reirden, WSH

Central Division

F Patrick Kane, CHI
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL
F Ryan O'Reilly, STL
F Mikko Rantanen, COL
F Mark Scheifele, WPG
F Blake Wheeler, WPG
F Gabriel Landeskog, COL
D Miro Heiskanen, DAL
D Roman Josi, NSH
G Devan Dubnyk, MIN
G Pekka Rinne, NSH
Coach: Paul Maurice, WPG

Pacific Division

F Johnny Gaudreau, CGY
F Clayton Keller, ARI
F Connor McDavid, EDM
F Joe Pavelski, SJS
F Elias Pettersson, VAN
F Leon Draisaitl, EDM
D Brent Burns, SJS
D Drew Doughty, LAK
D Erik Karlsson, SJS
G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK
G John Gibson, ANA
Coach: Bill Peters, CGY

The NHL All-Star Skills event took place on Friday.

McDavid was one against crowned the winner of the fastest skater, clocking a time of 13.378 seconds for his third consecutive triumph in the event.

Gaudreau retained his title in the puck control contest, finishing with a time of 27.045 seconds to edge out Kane.

Lundqvist is the oldest all-star among this year’s cast, but the “King” would take his throne, recording 12 straight saves in the Save Streak contest.

Draisaitl showed his peers how it was done in the Premier Passer event with a time of 1:09:088.

Carlson took home the hardest shot, blasting a puck 102.8 MPH.

Pastrnak was first up in the Accuracy Shooting event and his time of 11.309 seconds went unmatched.

[RELATED: 2019 NHL All-Star Skills: Winners, funny moments, Gritty]

If you haven’t yet, take some time today to watch P.K. Subban’s excellent All-Star Special that air after Friday’s All-Star Skills. Subban had several guests appear on his show, including 13-year-old Ty Cornett, who reached out to Subban earlier this month after experiencing racism while playing youth hockey.

And if you’re looking for more ASG coverage, don’t forget to read these stories from PHT’s Sean Leahy, who is on the ground in San Jose and has been providing top-notch coverage from the event.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck