Seven seminal moments from Mike Smith’s stint as a Coyote
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mike Smith will be in street clothes on Thursday when the Calgary Flames face the Coyotes at Gila River Arena for the first time since Arizona traded its former goaltender to the Flames on June 17.
Smith has been sidelined since Feb. 11 with a groin injury. Per team policy, he has not spoken with the media since he was injured.
Although he isn’t playing, Smith is expected to be in the building, so here’s a look at seven big moments from his Coyotes years.
1. Buh-bye Blackhawks: Smith was a thorn in the Blackhawks’ side throughout the team’s six-game, 2012 Western Conference first round playoff series, stopping 229 of 241 shots for a .950 save percentage in the series. He saved his best for last, stopping all 39 shots as the Coyotes eliminated the Hawks in six games with a 4-0 win at home to capture their first playoff series since moving to Arizona in 1996. Chicago outshot Arizona 16-2 in the first period.
“The hockey gods were probably looking down on us, giving us a chance,” then-coach Dave Tippett said. “Smith cleaned up the rest.”
2. Big win in Nashville: The Coyotes didn’t eliminate the Predators until one game later in the Western Conference semifinals, but Smith’s 25-save, 1-0 shutout on May 4 at Bridgestone Arena gave Arizona a 3-1 series lead instead of heading home knotted at two-games apiece against the favored Preds. It was a knockout punch in the series.
“We were so aggressive,” Smith said. “We didn’t give them much, kept them to the outside and when they did get opportunities we had stick on puck. We had guys lying down blocking shots. My D was tremendous tonight. They have been good all playoffs long, but this is one of the better games they’ve played in front of me.”
3. Empty-net goal: Smith scored into an empty net with 0.1 seconds left on the clock to cement a 5-2, comeback win over the hated Detroit Red Wings at Jobing.com Arena on Oct. 19, 2013, becoming just the 11th goalie in NHL history to score a goal.
“A lot of things have to go right for that to happen,” he said. “Everything has to work right and the clock has to slow down at the right time in the game to let it trickle over the line. It was just a bonus to a great win.”
The goal call from Matt McConnell and Tyson Nash is worth a thousand words.
4. A new contract: Following the lockout-shortened season, Smith signed a six-year, $34 million deal that put him in line with some of the NHL’s best goalies. He had just turned in a disappointing contract year, finishing 15-12-5 with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He also missed several games with a groin injury, but the Coyotes felt they had no better option and still hoped Smith could recapture the magic of the previous season’s run. Tippett said that if they had lost Smith, it would have created a huge void.
“Then you’re talking about filling the biggest need and sort of starting from scratch,” he said.
5. Butt goal: On Dec. 23, 2013, the Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres headed to overtime, tied 1-1 at KeyBank Center. Smith had already made 30 saves but he couldn’t get No. 31. Tyler Ennis got to his own rebound just as Smith reached it and the collective contact sent the puck high into the air. Almost everyone lost sight of the puck as it dropped into the seat of Smith’s pants. Smith backed into the net to protect against another shot attempt. In so doing, he carried the puck over the goal line for the game-winner in what is now known as butt goal.
6. All-Star goal: Smith stole the show at the 2017 NHL All-Star Skills Competition when he scored on 188-foot wrist shot into a tiny slot in a wooden goalie at the far end of Staples Center. Smith’s shot was part of the inaugural Four Line Challenge and was worth 20 bonus points. Team captain Connor McDavid substituted Smith into the event, which was supposed to test the accuracy of skaters, not goalies.
Smith insisted he wouldn’t even hit the net if he tried again, but his empty-net goal against the Red Wings proved otherwise.
7. The trade: On June 17, the Coyotes traded Smith to Calgary for the rights to unrestricted free agent goalie Chad Johnson, defensive prospect Brandon Hickey (Boston University) and a 2018 third-round pick that becomes a second-round pick if the Flames make the playoffs.
Smith was both wistful and excited in the moments after his six-season tenure in Arizona had ended.
“You hear the rumors but you never know who to really believe,” he said. “When I got the call from [GM] John [Chayka], there were a lot of different emotions that wash over you. I spent six years in Arizona. My kids were all born there and I’ve made unbelievable friends with the Coyotes and away from hockey that we’ve grown attached to, so that part of change is difficult to fathom, but my wife and I are excited about this new opportunity, not only because it’s in Canada but because it’s with a team that’s ready to win right now.
“It’s been a struggle these past few years in Arizona. Not taking anything away from the players I played with, but I feel like I’m in the prime of my career and I’ve worked hard to get here so I believe I deserve a chance to be on a team that wants to win right now. Calgary is that team.”
In 47 games this season with the Flames, Smith is 23-16-6 with a 2.53 goals against average (tied for 17th) and a .921 save percentage (tied for 13th).
Flames at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Flames — 30-22-9. Coyotes — 17-32-10.
Injury report: Flames — F Marek Hrivik (undisclosed) is on injured reserve. F Kris Versteeg (hip) and G Mike Smith (groin) are out indefinitely. Smith traveled with the team but is unlikely to play. Coyotes — None.
Flames scouting report: Calgary is in a dogfight for a playoff spot. The Flames are four points behind Anaheim for third place in the Pacific Division and two points behind Minnesota for the second wild card in the Western Conference. … F Johnny Gaudreau leads the team with 70 points. He was tied for second in the league in points and his 51 assists were third. … C Sean Monahan leads the team with 27 goals. … Flames GM Brad Treliving was the Coyotes assistant GM from 2003-2014. … Flames D Michael Stone played for the Coyotes from 2011-2017.
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