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Mr. November: Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse is on a month-long Heater

Craig Morgan Avatar
November 30, 2023
Lawson Crouse warms up before a game against the Los Angeles Kings at Mullett Arena on Nov. 20.

When Lawson Crouse signed a five-year, $21.5 million contract extension in the summer of 2022, detractors wondered if the Coyotes had overpaid the then-25-year-old power forward. 

Ninety-seven games and 34 goals later, that criticism has withered on the vine.

The goals are the easiest way to chart Crouse’s progression in his seventh full NHL season. He has 10 of them in 13 November games, setting the Coyotes franchise record for goals in the month with one game remaining on Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche to break the Jets/Coyotes franchise record set by Dale Hawerchuk and Andrew McBain.

But there is and has been so much more to Crouse’s game that goes underappreciated by the stat-crazed crowd.

“If you can find another guy who’s 6-foot-4, is super fast, super reliable defensively, can play on the PK and the power play, can play against the top line on the other side, can contribute offensively, who is a big leader in your room and can also fight — if teams can find another guy like that at that price, good for them,” said coach André Tourigny, who discussed Crouse’s leadership style in depth in the first edition of Bear Necessities below.

“Not every team I have coached has had the luxury to have a guy like that. When you have one, I think you can consider yourself lucky.”

Nobody is expecting Crouse to keep up this torrid pace, but the soft-spoken, affable 2015 first-round pick (No. 11) isn’t shy about stating his goals out loud. He wants to score 30 this season. He is currently on pace for 40, and both he and Tourigny are quick to credit the chemistry he has built with linemates Matias Maccelli and Nick Bjugstad. 

“They have been one of the best lines in the league in my opinion,” Tourigny said. “They’re heavy on the forecheck. They manage the puck right. They win big faceoffs. They play against top lines. They’re big, heavy, and fast. They play the right way. They’re everything we want. They do everything right.”

Maccelli’s elite passing ability has become a part of local lore, but anybody with an ounce of NHL experience will tell you that scoring goals is the hardest thing to do. Crouse is doing it with regularity; only Vancouver’s Brock Boeser (11) and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg (11) have more this month.  

“Confidence probably is the major thing,” Crouse said, when asked to explain his current heater. “But as a line, goals aside, we’re playing really good hockey. Every time we’re on the ice, we’re creating, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job defending as a line. We’re just playing the right way. We work hard, we constantly communicate, and I think we’re starting to see what we kind of built last year with our chemistry.”

Linemates Matias Maccelli, Nick Bjugstad and Lawson Crouse celebrate a goal at Mullett Arena. (Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Maccelli and Crouse have found a happy co-existence, but there also exists an assumption that Maccelli sets up all of Crouse’s goals. It is not true. Of Crouse’s 10 goals, Maccelli has the primary assist on just four and an assist on five overall. By comparison, Bjugstad has three primaries and two second assists on Crouse’s goals. JJ Moser, Clayton Keller and Sean Durzi have the other primaries, proving that Crouse is not as selective with his set-up man as you might think.

“I think he’s just finishing chances, and I don’t think there’s anything different between this year and last year,” Tourginy said. “He’s just in the right spots.”

Goal scorers like to call those the quiet areas where they can elude the defense. Crouse admits that Maccelli’s passing ability makes finding those areas easier to accomplish.

“When Celli has the puck in the O-zone, he’s so good at protecting it and buying time for himself,” Crouse said. “When he’s doing that, I’m just trying to get lost and find open areas. There’s a time and place when you need to go to the net and stack bodies at the net and funnel pucks to the net, but there’s also times when you can get lost. 

“The key is, I think, to have one person at the net and then Celli obviously finds you with a perfect pass. A lot of credit goes to those two guys for my personal statistics. I’m not blind to that.”

Crouse also deserves credit for finishing those chances. One of the key ingredients is a quick release, which you can see on more than half of his 10 goals, in this video that PHNX Sports’ Steve Peters curated for this story.

The great goal scorers will tell you that a quick release is one of the main ingredients in success, as is the ability to alter the angle of the shot, the velocity, and the ability to pick spots.

“The quicker you can get the puck off — the goalie is not set — the less you have to pick your spot instead of just picking an area,” Crouse said. “When it’s on and off [the stick fast], good things happen.”

When it has to stay on the stick for a beat longer, however, Tourigny said that Crouse has added elements to his game that help him maintain possession and opportunity.

“He improved his puck handling a lot,” Tourigny said. “That’s one thing he mentioned last year that he did want to improve for making plays and stuff like that. He is much better at handling the puck and making plays that’ll help us remain in possession. 

“The other thing he is good at is getting around the net and getting tips, getting rebounds, which is something he still keeps trying to grow in his game, so there’s a lot of positives.”

Amusingly, Crouse declined an on-camera interview recently because he didn’t want to jinx his November streak. He knows what it’s like to be snake-bitten. It happened in the 2021-22 season when he developed a love affair with the posts, and it happened in October when he went scoreless in seven games.

Hockey players are notoriously superstitious, but Tourigny isn’t worried about his do-everything alternate captain slipping into a major funk.

“The pace right now is scary but everything will level out,” Tourigny said. “That does not concern me. Crouser plays the right way. He’s going to contribute even if he is not scoring goals.”

Top photo of Lawson Crouse via Getty Images

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