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The Desert Dog Blog: Smith Says Being Starting Goalie is Easier Than Being Backup

Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 5:08 PM / Features
By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- Coyotes goalie Mike Smith was the obvious choice for the NHL’s First Star of the Week award after his outstanding play in four victories last week.

Smith allowed only three goals on 122 shots in those four games – wins over Detroit, Dallas, Calgary and Chicago. On Saturday, he blanked the Blackhawks on 38 shots – the highest number of shots he faced in any of his 14 NHL shutouts.

Many observers predicted the Coyotes would suffer this season after the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov. That simply hasn’t been the case. From my seat, Smith has been the team’s MVP; his .925 save percentage is the best single season mark in franchise history (minimum 25 games played).

Photo by Getty Images.
After winning the NHL’s weekly award on Monday, Smith made the rounds on the interview circuit and provided lots of insight into his recent success.

Asked on NHL Live how he has changed his mental approach to goaltending now that he’s finally a starter in the NHL, Smith replied:

“I don’t think it’s changed that much. I think it’s harder to be the backup. When you’re not playing a lot and you haven’t played in two or three weeks and you’re called upon to play in big games I think it’s tougher to play well at a high level. Knowing you’re going to play a lot - I think mentally you can turn that switch off and just kind of go out and play and not look too far ahead and go one game at a time. I think I’ve kept that mentality this season and it’s worked out so far.”

After taking Monday night’s game at Vancouver off, Smith will be back in goal on Thursday night when the Coyotes play at the Los Angeles Kings.

Having already set a career-high for games played in a season (44), Smith knows he still has a long way to go in 2011-12.

“I’ve felt great most of the season,” Smith told NHL Live. “Obviously I’ve played more games than I ever had but as athletes we train to do this and we train to be put in situations where we’re going to play our best and the most.”

He added: “There’s no time for rest now. It’s ‘Go Time’ until the end of the season.”

• Today is the 100th birthday of the state of Arizona. In recognition of this historic day, the Coyotes have opened the auction for the "Arizona Centennial" jerseys the players wore in the team's annual Coyotes Charities photo.

Click here to bid on a jersey or jerseys:

Proceeds from the auction will benefit Coyotes Charities.

Brandon Gormley
• Coyotes prospect Brandon Gormley is on the mend after suffering a foot injury in a game played on Feb. 4 in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Gormley, a defenseman for the Shawinigan Cataractes, suffered the injury by sliding into the boards feet-first early in the game against the Saint John Sea Dogs. Gormley stayed in the game. After the game it was determined he would be sidelined for four to six weeks.

That’s the bad news for Gormley. The good news is he wasn’t seriously injured later in the same game when an opponent’s skate cut his throat.

According to The Guardian, Gormley dived to knock the puck from Sea Dogs forward Charlie Coyle’s stick, and Coyle’s skate came up and accidentally struck Gormley in the throat, narrowly missing his jugular. Gormley was quickly taken to a local hospital where he received two stitches.

"It was a rough game," Gormley told The Guardian. "I know I'm pretty fortunate."

Click here to read more.

• Coyotes players raised more than $60,000 for Coyotes Charities not too long ago when they waited tables at a local restaurant and donated all of their tips.

It was a fun night as the players mingled with the diners while serving them food, drinks and personality.

Click here to watch an in-depth video of the event.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
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