Mike Smith enters Olympic break red-hot for Phoenix Coyotes

Mike Smith enters Olympic break red-hot for Phoenix Coyotes

Mike Smith (photo credit: Matt York/AP)

Mike Smith (photo credit: Matt York/AP)

The Phoenix Coyotes season has been quite the roller coaster, to say the least. No man understands that more than goaltender Mike Smith.

When the Coyotes signed Smith this past summer, the expectations weren’t complicated. Play the way Coyotes fans have been accustomed to seeing, and bring playoff hockey back to Glendale. Head coach Dave Tippett and general manager Don Maloney knew that is what Smith was capable of. It was largely on Smith’s performance that the Phoenix Coyotes were able to make a Cinderella run to the Western Conference Finals in that season, something no Coyotes team has ever done.

So it makes sense that the Coyotes locked him down to the tune of $5.6 million per year. If he continued to be the catalyst that drove this team, that lofty contract figure would be a steal, the Coyotes brass thought.

As far as 2013-14 is concerned, it may have taken longer than they would have liked, but Smith is starting to become just that.

After having his fair share of ups (like this historic goal) and downs (like this goal down his pants) for the season, Mike Smith is gearing up for a late season push for his squad.

Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers:

Mike Smith

(photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Smith actually leads the NHL in a couple of categories headed into the Olympic break. No goalie has seen more shots (1500), stopped more shots (1369), or played in more games (49) then the Coyotes’ netminder. However, no goalie has allowed more goals to get by than Smith, either (131). That comes as no surprise, though, as Smith has seen quite a bit of time compared to other goalies.

Specifically, Smith has struggled on the road. His road goals against average is 2.99 and his save percentage is .911, compared to a better, yet still in need of improvement 2.58 and .914 at home.

Another quirk about Smith is how he performs in back-to-back games, that is, games that he played the night before. He is 1-3 in those games, but is below his season goals against average at 2.54.

But those stats are neither here nor there. The most important stats are how he has performed as of late. In four February starts, Smith has a stellar 1.27 GAA tied to a .960 save percentage. Only Montreal’s Carey Price is better with goaltenders of at least four starts in the month.

That pattern is eerily similar to Smith’s 2011-12 February, where he went 11-0-0 with a 1.42 GAA and a .952 save percentage.

It’s a small (and rather specific) sample size, but it’s nothing to ignore for Coyotes fans. It may have taken him all season, but Mike Smith is starting to put it all together, and that is scary for a team that has found ways to win without Smith being consistent.

It may be too early to think all this with the Coyotes currently sitting at ninth place in the Western Conference, outside of the playoff bubble. But as many Stanley Cup champions can attest, all it takes is a hot goaltender to make a late season push.

One more stat: in the 21 wins Smith has been in net for, he sports a 2.12 GAA with a .934 save percentage. With the Coyotes scoring approximately 2.7 goals per game, the formula going forward is simple for Smith. Keep playing winning hockey, and the rest will fall in place.