The Coyotes took a big chance when they signed goaltender Mike Smith to a six-year, $34 million contract in the summer of 2013. They were betting on him being one of the league’s top goaltenders and that’s not what he was last season.
Before making the trip to Arizona, Smith had struggled to establish himself as a starting goaltender, but he broke out in 2011-12 with a 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in 67 games. He was just as effective in the playoffs and led the Coyotes to the conference finals for the first time in their history.
He wasn’t nearly as effective in the shortened campaign though, which raised questions about whether his 2011-12 performance would ultimately prove to be an aberration. Clearly the Coyotes decided that Smith had more great seasons in him as the small market team locked him up.
The first year of his new contract wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t great either. He was inconsistent and posted a 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage in 62 games before an MCL sprain ended his season.
“Goaltending through the middle of the season for me wasn’t where it needed to be,” Smith admitted in April, per the Arizona Republic. “I was kind of doing some soul-searching, and we lost some games because of that.”
Smith suggested that part of the problem was that the Olympics were looming and he wasn’t sure if he would make Team Canada, so that put extra pressure on him. While those exact circumstances obviously won’t repeat in 2014-15, it’s still fair to say that a lot will be riding on Smith this season.
The Coyotes might not be searching for owners anymore, but the team still needs to grow its fanbase in Glendale as quickly as possible to prove that hockey can thrive there. The best way to attract an audience is with a great on-ice product and whether or not the Coyotes are playoff contenders will largely rest on Smith’s shoulders.
If the 32-year-old goaltender is anything less than great in 2014-15, then this could be another problematic season for Arizona.
The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.
Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.
With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.
It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.
Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.
The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?
Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:
If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.
Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.
An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.
After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.
You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.
Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.
Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.
Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.
Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.
Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.
Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:
Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.
Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.
“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”
Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”
People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.