A year ago, Mike Smith was in a “pretty bad place mentally.”
Which was understandable, considering the Arizona Coyotes goalie started 2014-15 by allowing 16 goals in his first three starts. He went on to finish the season with a save percentage (.904) that ranked among the worst starters in the league.
But he’s in a much better place today. Smith was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Monday and has a .971 save percentage after his first two starts, both wins, of 2015-16.
“It’s always nice to get recognized but obviously I’m not getting too far ahead of myself,” Smith told the Coyotes’ website. “It’s two games. I hope to continue the good play. It’s nice, but more importantly we’ve played better as a team and we’re doing a lot of good things in front of me. It starts there.”
The Coyotes will look to stay perfect tonight when they pay a visit to Anaheim. That won’t be easy against a talented Ducks side still searching for its first victory. In all likelihood, Arizona will need Smith to be excellent again.
That being said, the young Coyotes have been more than just a red-hot goalie. Saturday at home to Pittsburgh, they outshot the Penguins, 39-28, and were fully deserving of a 2-1 win.
Forwards Tobias Rieder, Anthony Duclair, and Max Domi all held their own in top-six roles. That’s a 22-year-old and a couple of 20-year-olds, for the record.
“The youth, there’s lots of enthusiasm there, lots of smiling, lots of giddy up,” said coach Dave Tippett. “But there’s a couple things, if you look at our young guys they all have high skill and they play the game very fast. And that, I think, makes everybody else recognize that we’ve got to play quicker.”