Sunday, February 10, 2013
Mike Smith back on track?
By Luke Lapinski
The Phoenix Coyotes had a lot of players step up during last year's run to the Western Conference Finals. And every one of them will tell you that no one was more important than Mike Smith. The journeyman goalie found a home in the desert, thrived under the tutelage of Dave Tippett and Sean Burke and was the main catalyst for the Desert Dogs' strong playoff push.
To that end, they know they'll need him at the top of his game again this season. He got off to a rocky start before being sidelined with a "lower-body" injury, but could be returning to form now. Over his last four games, he's 3-1 with a total of seven goals allowed. But a closer look reveals that six of those goals came in a blowout loss to Chicago on Thursday. He bounced back from that effort with a 33-save shutout on the road over the San Jose Sharks yesterday though, meaning he's allowed a grand total of one goal over the course of those three wins.
One of Smith's biggest strengths last season was his ability to deliver strong performances when Phoenix needed him most -- especially against good teams. In fact, he now has four shutouts in his last seven meetings with the Sharks. And he's looked much more reminiscent of the player he was in 2011-12 since his return to the lineup earlier this month. Which could be exactly what the Coyotes need as they look to climb back up the Western Conference standings.