The Arizona Coyotes want Mike Smith to play well. They need Mike Smith to play well.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t done that — at least on a consistent basis.
Tuesday in Glendale, Smith allowed six goals on 39 shot attempts in a 6-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. A guest of Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said there was little thought given to pulling the goaltender from the game in favor of Devan Dubnyk who, up to this point, has had a better season than Smith.
“Last night, we gave up, especially in the second period, a couple power play goals,” Tippett said. “Those were mistakes in front of Smitty. Would you like to see Smitty make some saves, more saves? Sure you would.
“But when you look at the scoreboard and the shots are 32-14, if you take the goaltender out then, you’re letting all the other guys off the hook. And we’ve got to play better in front of whoever’s in goal, but the compete level in front of Smitty last night. If you take Smitty out, they’re thinking, ‘Oh, the goalie wasn’t very good, it’s not my fault.’ We’ve got a lot players that should be looking in the mirror right now.”
Essentially, Tippett is saying the difference between Smith, who has a 6-16-2 record with a 3.57 goals against average and a save percentage of .882, and Dubnyk, who is 9-4-2 with a 2.70 GAA and .918 save percentage, is not necessarily indicative of their respective performances.
However, that is not to say Smith cannot elevate his level of play for the struggling ‘Yotes.
“Smitty’s got a part in this, without a doubt,” Tippett said. “He’s got almost a half year of these struggles here. So that’s certainly an issue with our team. He’s our number one goalie that hasn’t played very well. We’re not going to beat around the bush with that.
“But that being said, I’d like to have a situation where the team can pick another guy up. When the guy’s struggling you play better in front of him, and maybe he can help you out at times.”
Tippett said the disappointing thing about his team is that there hasn’t been any of that this season, noting they don’t play hard enough as a group to make life easier on the goaltenders. And, in turn, the goaltenders have not consistently helped out their teammates.
“Smitty’s a part of it, without a doubt, but our group’s ability to defend and do things hard enough to make the game really competitive, there’s been too many times this year when that just hasn’t happened.”
A few years ago, Smith was good enough to cover for his teammates, playing at a level that helped lift the Coyotes to the Western Conference Final. He won 38 games in 2011-12, stopped .930 percent of the shots he faced and posted a GAA of 2.21. Just last season, even, he stopped .915 percent of shots faced and allowed just 2.64 goals per night.
He’s certainly talented enough to be a number one goalie, and if he could get back to being that player — or at least close to it — the team would certainly be better off.
That’s a big reason why Tippett and the Coyotes are not willing to give up on the 32 year old, and will instead continue to try and help him turn things around.
“You’ve got to keep pounding away and see if we can find some solutions,” Tippett said. “Whether it’s to play him more, play him less, practice him more, work with (goaltending coach Sean Burke) more, we’ll continue to push and prod whichever direction we have to go to see if we can get some results out of him.”