Coyotes goalie Mike Smith missed 40 games during the 2015-2016 NHL season, but ever since his return he’s been on fire and has Coyotes fans geared up for the start of next season.
Mike Smith has posted a .963 save percentage, while winning three of his four starts since returning to the Coyotes lineup from a muscle core surgery he went under in December. Remarkably so, in his first game back on March 12, Smith sent aside 44 shots by the Edmonton Oilers en route to a shutout victory.
The 34-year-old goalie’s lone loss since returning was a 3-0 defeat to the San Jose Sharks, but the two goals allowed by Smith (the third goal was an empty net goal) were both scored off of fluke bounces off of Coyotes defenders. He has stopped 131 of the 136 shots he’s faced since returning.
Smith is in year three of a six-year contract, so he will be under team control for the near future at least. With the up-swing of young offensive talent on the team (Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, amongst others) the Coyotes may be pointed in the right direction, especially with another top draft-pick upcoming.
Currently, the Coyotes (33-34-7) have the 8th worst record in the NHL at 73 points, but five of the seven teams below the Coyotes are within six points of Arizona so there’s still some room for fluctuation in the standings. Coyotes fans are hoping that karma is on their side after last season, when the Coyotes had the second worst record, but the lottery landed them with the third overall pick and in turn the Coyotes missed out on Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
Smith’s best season was in his first year with the Coyotes during the 2011-2012 season when he posted a 38-18-10 record with a .930 save percentage (career-high) and a 2.21 goals against average (also, a career-high). The Coyotes reached the Western Conference Finals that season behind Smith’s strong play and will look for him to carry his strong play at the end of this season into next year.
With the Coyotes on the brink of the playoffs three weeks ago a return to the playoffs next season is definitely not out of the question.