Arizona is no doubt concerned about Mike Smith’s ghastly numbers this season — 1-2-0, .822 save percentage, 5.33 GAA — but the bigger worry might be how Smith’s handling things mentally.
“I’ve played three games and it hasn’t gone even close to the way it needs to be,” Smith said. “I understand that, but there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself or get down.”
Smith wasn’t feeling up after Saturday’s 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. While other players dissected the slaughter they had just witnessed, Smith sat nearly motionless in his stall with a towel draped over his head.
When coach Dave Tippett was asked about his goaltender’s psyche after the game, he admitted “it’s a concern.”
Smith, 32, has gotten off to slow starts before. He allowed 13 goals on his first 84 shots faced during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign — an .845 save percentage — but the thing with this year isn’t the number of goals he’s surrendered. It’s the type of goals.
Simply put, some have been really soft. Like this one against Winnipeg in the season opener:
Or this one on Saturday in a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of St. Louis:
Compounding things is the fact that, most nights, Smith needs to be razor sharp to give the Coyotes a chance to win. A team that struggled to score goals at the best of times last year lost two of its better offensive producers in Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata, and this season Arizona — outside of a seven-goal aberration against Edmonton — has been a two-goals-per-game kind of team.
There’s been temptation for the Coyotes to give Devan Dubnyk an extended look — he’s played once this year, beating the defending Cup champion Kings — but for now, the hope is that Smith will get his game turned around, and soon.
“Obviously, frustration is there,” he explained, “but it’s been there before and I know how to handle that.”