Originally written on Hipchecks  |  Last updated 3/2/12

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02: Mike Smith #41 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 2, 2009 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers won the game 6-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Mike Smith has lead the Coyotes to 11-0-1 for the month of February and first place in the pacific division. But what do we really know about #41 for the Coyotes? At 29, Smith signed as a free agent with the Coyotes in the summer of 2011. It was expected he would be started by most fans while LaBarbera did what he’s best at... backup. Smith came from a deep playoff run with the Tampa Bay Lightning after struggling with the team over his tenure. 


Who doesn't love a goalie with crazy hair? At least his hair is the only crazy thing about him...
(photo from Coyotes website)

Smith was drafted by Dallas in 2001, 161st overall in the fifth round. Ironically his NHL debut was a shutout against Phoenix in 2006. While in Dallas Smith was backup to Marty Turco, a goalie well known for his roaming style of play. Smith had a pretty decent run in Dallas but was later traded to Tampa Bay.

What makes Smith stand out from most goalies is his ability to act as another defense man. He can handle the puck, pass up ice and even notch a few points along the way. His style of play may “scare” some fans, and he has garnered a few haters along the way in Phoenix, but as with any player, he has good and bad games. Overall Smith has been one of the better goalies I have seen with this organization. I became a fan during the Gretzky years and I loved Cujo but what followed was nothing to write home about. Overall Smith is one of the best puck handling goalies in the NHL. Watching Bryzgalov or LaBarbera try to handle the puck or wander from the crease was a scary thing but with Smith it is a thing of beauty. 


A tad intimidating. (photo from Zimbio.com)

Things may have been a little rough for Smith throughout the season but lets be honest... the Coyotes defense isn’t exactly chock full of the best players and has been riddled with injuries. Our ability to score goals and take advantage of power plays was non-existent for awhile. We cannot expect Smith to stop every shot, every game. Like any goalie, he needs help from the d and the forwards to put the puck in the back of the other guy’s net once in awhile.

I will say that I am glad we no longer have crazy Bryz to deal with. If you remember, I have never been a huge proponent of Bryz. He never played consistently well and we would wait with baited breath to see if this was the game he would implode during. I am glad to have a more stable presence in net right now. Smith is much more calm and controlled than Bryz ever seemed to be.
Plus if you compare their stats from this year, you can see that we should be glad we didn’t resign Bryzgalov. Also, look at Bryz’s totals from last year. Smith has put up better numbers as a Coyote than Bryz. The team wasn’t vastly different last year. We made changes over the off season but mostly replaced guys who left with guys similar to them.

                Smith-           Bryz-           Bryz Last Season (68 Games)
GAA           2.24               2.78            2.48
SV %         .927               .899            .921
SO               4                     2               7
               29-14-7         23-12-6       36-20-10

I also think that both Dave Tippett and Sean Burke have helped Smith immensely. Tippett knows Smith from Dallas and what he is capable of. Burke seems to have a magical touch. Tippett knows Burke can make almost any goalie better (ahem Bryzgalov, LaBarbera) than they have been previously. Unfortunately for Bryz he did not carry this knowledge with him to Philly..


Burke works with Smith during training camp. (picture my own)

Interesting Facts on Smith:

-First goalie to record a shutout, score a goal and receive a fighting major in the same game
-First time the Coyotes have gone 11 wins in one month in 25 years. As the Jets the franchise did this three times 3/1982, 11/1986 & 1/1987.
-Recorded 11 consecutive wins in one season (only reached by Biron 05-06, Brodeur 05-06, Fleury 10-11 and Rinne 11-12.
-First Star of the week for 2/13/12
-First Star of the month of February


I wouldn't want to mess with him either. (photo originally tweeted by BizNasty2point0). 

I hope you all enjoyed my first post in awhile. I decided to do something I really enjoyed. I am open to suggestions of which players you would like to see profiled. It is not as thorough as my previous one on Shane Doan but I did that while on vacation. In Wisconsin. At Christmas. I had nothing else to do. ;) I also kind of rushed this one to get it up after his tremendous month of February.


 
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