GLENDALE, Ariz. — At the end of Tobias Rieder’s postgame interview on Saturday, a reporter pointed out that Rieder was on an 82-goal pace.
An awkward silence ensued.
“We’ll see what happens,” Rieder stammered, while laughing. “I think 82 goals, that would be a lot.”
Rieder isn’t going to score 82 goals this season. Nobody is, but the 22-year-old German wing took coach Dave Tippett’s offseason advice to heart, worked on his shooting and in the first two games of the season he has enjoyed the fruits of his labor with two goals.
“He shot hundreds of pucks over the summer and he’s gotten a couple opportunities and buried them,” Tippett said. “That’s all Tobi. That’s not coaches telling him what to do. That’s a young player that has a desire to be better.”
Rieder wasn’t quite the training camp surprise last season that Jordan Martinook was this season. Tippett hinted throughout camp that Rieder was going to make an impact, even though he was sent back to Portland of the American Hockey League for a little more seasoning before his final recall in early November.
Rieder’s attention to detail in all three zones, and his ability to create scoring chances impressed Tippett. The finish was the missing ingredient.
“It was a pretty short conversation,” Rieder said, laughing. “He told me to score, pretty much. He told me to work on my shot. He told me he liked that I’m creating a lot of chances so it was about taking that next step and putting the puck in the net.”
Rieder’s goal against Pittsburgh on Saturday embodied the 200-foot player that he is. He won a puck battle deep in the Coyotes zone to get the breakout started, then he hustled down ice and took a feed from behind the Penguins net by Anthony Duclair and pushed it through the tightest of windows.
“I think you learn how to score when you really try to score in practice,” he said. “On every shot, you go down and you want to score. It’s about the will.
“Everybody is trying to pick corners or pick spots but the goalies in this league are really good. They try to give you more of one side and all of the sudden they close it up, so it’s a split-second decision. Wherever you see the most net that’s where you try to shoot and I’m pretty comfortable putting the puck everywhere now.”
General manager Don Maloney was lauded this offseason for a pair of trade-deadline deals he made last year that netted defenseman Klas Dahlbeck and Chicago’s first-round pick for center Antoine Vermette; and center prospect Maxim Letunov for defensemen Zbynek Michalek. Both Vermette and Michalek returned as free agents this summer, meaning the Coyotes gave up nothing.
That wasn’t quite the case when Arizona acquired Rieder three seasons ago from the Oilers, but when three reporters had to stop and think the other day about whom the Oilers received in the deal (disappointing forward prospect Kale Kessy), it was clear how lopsided that trade was.
The Coyotes need offense from a lot of sources this season, especially wings Mikkel Boedker, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. If Rieder can become an elite scorer after a 13-goal rookie season, however, Arizona will have better balance in front of a team that is already defending better.
“Confidence is huge,” Rieder said. “As soon as you get a couple goals you feel way more confident going in on a goalie and I’m definitely feeling more confident. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”
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