Updated Apr 10, 2012 - 3:33 pm
Mike Smith is saving everything, but can he save the Coyotes?
Unfortunately for them (and their presumed angle), the only place the Coyotes moved was farther up the Western Conference Standings, as Phoenix beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 and all but solidified its hold on a playoff spot.
You can thank Mike Smith.
The Coyotes' goalie notched his 8th shutout of the season while making an NHL regular season record 54 saves in a shutout, all while winning his 36th game of the year.
Smith has not allowed a goal in 219 minutes and 59 seconds, putting together his best stretch of the season when the team needed him most.
"As an athlete I think we want to contribute and help the team win in times like this in the season," Smith said after the game. "I wouldn't think it's any different for anyone else other than just me.
"It's an important time of year to play well, and I'm just fortunate that I'm doing it at this time in the season. It's exciting and fun to be a part of games like this."
Yeah, about that…
This is not the first time a team has surprised the "experts," and it certainly won't be the last. Though they are making a habit out of overachieving, the Coyotes have proven that they have a system in place, and will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
With regards to being relevant in the Western Conference, of course, because nobody can be completely sure where this team will call home next season.
But to worry about that right now would be unfortunate at worst and misguided at best.
The Coyotes are making a playoff push while being led by one of the best stories in the NHL, a goalie who is playing as well as anyone in the game. The announced-but- not-all-there crowd of 13,263 at Jobing.Com Arena acknowledged that fact - and the player's season - by chanting "Smitty, Smitty" in the third period.
"That was obviously a huge honor," Smith said. "It was nice to play in front of the home fans and get a big win in our last game here at home in the regular season, and it's been fun to play in the desert this year."
I'd bet it's been even more fun for Coyotes fans to watch the 30-year-old become a star right before their eyes.
"It's been unbelievable, unbelievable," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Smith's streak. "He just…time after time he's made unbelievable saves for us.
"It's been an incredible run."
Sure, Smith will give up a goal at some point (I think), but as long as he's playing well between the pipes the team will have a chance to finally escape the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and prolong their season in the Valley of the Sun.
"He's definitely carried us, he's made that big save when we needed it," Coyotes center Boyd Gordon said after Tuesday's game. "He's bailed us out of a lot of problems."
Could he bail the team - and franchise - out of one more, possibly making his biggest save of all?
I wouldn't put it past him. Hell, I couldn't put it past him.