Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 5/3/12
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Every time Coyotes goalie Mike Smith wanders out of his crease to play the puck, another critic is born. It happened during the regular season on a few occasions. It happened in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against Nashville when a puck took a funny bounce off a partition at Jobing.com Arena and ended up on the stick of Brandon Yip for an easy tap-in. And it happened again on Wednesday in Game 3 when Smith slid a puck behind the net that Gabriel Bourque intercepted to feed David Legwand for an easy goal. It was probably a bad read on my part, Smith said of the latter goal. Ive made that play 100 times this year, and its worked out most times. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett hopes he makes it 100 more times. You watch how many times that deters the forecheck, Tippett said. Hes the best in the league at it, by far. Why would he change? While much of the focus was on Smiths game-altering gaffe midway through the first period, Tippetts ire was reserved for other participants in the play, specifically his two defensemen. Rusty Klesla didnt get back to the corner to give Smith an outlet on the near side, and Bourque then beat Adrian Aucoin to the end boards to intercept Smiths pass. I think our D should have worked way harder to get back, Tippett said. Unfortunately for Smith, those mistakes get lost in the analysis while his decision ends up in the back of the net. But if you watched Wednesdays game, there were at least half a dozen other occasions when Smiths puck-handling ability aided the Coyotes' breakout. In simple terms, a goalie can see the ice in front of him while the defensemen can't because theyre still coming back into the zone with their backs to the play. That vision allows Smith to make better decisions with the puck while also alleviating pressure on the defensemen, who normally have forecheckers bearing down on them. In years past, (Ilya Bryzgalov) wasnt a guy who played the puck much. He stayed in his crease, but Smitty helps us out back there, defenseman Keith Yandle said. If you can turn, get open and see the whole ice and he gives you a good pass, you can get out of the zone easy. Thats what we take pride in -- not spending too much time in our own end. Yandle said he doesnt give plays like Wednesdays much afterthought. You know when you have a guy who does like to play the puck, sometimes youre going to give up goals like that, he said. But he doesnt do that often, and we didnt help him out by getting any goals. Smith also suffered another bad break Wednesday. On the second goal, he tried to knock away Mike Fishers pass across the deep slot. Instead, the puck slid up his stick, over his right shoulder and into the net. I think its scientifically impossible for that to happen, Smith said, smiling. I looked at it, and (goalie coach Sean Burke) looked at it 100 times, and I still dont know how it goes in from that angle. Following those two bad breaks and an average performance in Game 2, you might call this the first real adversity Smith has faced in the postseason aside from a league-high 342 postseason shots. But dont expect him to alter his wandering ways. Theres no sense in changing now because its the playoffs, he said. Ive got to play my game, do what got us here, and hopefully it doesnt cost us any more goals. The same goes for his approach to the series. I havent been unbelievable, but I dont think Id change anything, he said. Im not going to go back on goals and say 'I should have done this or I should have done that.' All season long, Ive put good and bad things behind me and worried about whats coming up next.
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