Netminder Mike Smith has been a stone wall for the Phoenix Coyotes, posting record numbers in his team’s quest for a playoff berth in the hotly contested Western Conference.
Smith made an astonishing 54 saves en route to his third consecutive shutout against the Blue Jackets Tuesday. His eighth blanking of the year also tied a franchise record for the most shutouts in a season.
“It was a fun game for me to be a part of because I knew how big the points were and I knew that our team wasn’t playing to the best of our capabilities,” Smith told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Wednesday. “That puts a lot more pressure on me but that’s why we play and that’s why I picked to be a goaltender to have that pressure and to enjoy the moment when it’s like that.”
The Coyotes team MVP certainly relishes the spotlight, rising to the occasion when his team needs him most. Smith has been inundated with pucks as of late, especially early in games. He faced the most shots in his career against Columbus, yet remains unfazed and unbeatable.
“The last three games we haven’t started the hockey games like we need to and like we can,” Smith said. “Obviously that needs to be addressed.”
The Coyotes find themselves in seventh place in the Western Conference playoff hunt. They’re tied with the Los Angeles Kings with 93 points and one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks. Smith recognizes the importance of his team finding their stride in the season’s final two games.
“We want to be playing our best hockey this time of the season and I don’t think as a group we have,” Smith stated. “Obviously we have two more games left before playoffs and we need to get a point to get in and every point is important. We want to be striving and getting better every game and kind of we’re in a little bit of a funk right now but we have time to get out of it.”
Smith has been the one constant for the Coyotes this season — the steadying force who picks up his teammates when they falter. The 30-year-old goaltender doesn’t know what to attribute his splendid play to, but it’s undeniable that he’s dialed in right now.
“I don’t know to be honest with you,” Smith explained. “A lot of things have to happen in order for you to get a shutout in this league and to put a string together like this obviously a lot of things have to happen right for it to happen. If guys are blocking shots and I am getting some lucky bounces and I am putting myself in pretty good position to let pucks hit me. So I don’t think there’s one specific thing. I think we just as a group, we’re finding ways to win and we’re finding ways to keep the puck out of our net.”