Sunday, September 4, 2011

Can Mike Smith Fill The Hole In Phoenix's Net?

It has become some what routine to read stories about the Phoenix Coyotes putting together a strong season under the leadership of team captain, Shane Doan, and coach, Dave Tippett, despite off ice drama and ownership problems.

However, going into next season the Coyotes will be without Ilya Bryzgalov, the record holder for wins in a Coyotes sweater, and the back bone of the franchise for much of the last four seasons.

Bryzgalov had been the bread and butter for the Coyotes, he racked up 130 wins, surpassed 25 wins each of his four seasons with the club, and hit 42 wins two seasons ago.

Rightfully so, after Bryzgalov exited stage left, the Coyotes were left with a sizable hole between the pipes and no one was sure how, or who would step in to fill the void.

Enter Mike Smith.

Smith was signed to a two year contract with the Coyotes, in hopes to fill the big shoes left by Bryzgalov.

Smith is coming from the Tampa Bay Lightning where he has seen limited playing time over the last four seasons. Smith played in 22 games last season and went 13-6, with a 2.90 goals against average, and a .899 save percentage.

Along with Smith's move west, comes playing in the tough Pacific Division. The Coyotes will face the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Dallas Stars, all potential playoff teams, six times each and Smith may be relied upon to win a game or two like Bryzgalov did in the past.

The Coyotes allowed the third highest shots against average in the league last season with 32, behind only Boston and Carolina. But although the Coyotes allowed vast amounts of rubber to make its way to their net, they ranked 13th in goals against per game with 2.68, which could be due to Bryzgalov's performance.

If the Coyotes' defense, lead by recently re-signed Keith Yandle, stiffens up, Smith will give his team a chance to win every night. If Smith does not get support in front of him then his time in the desert may not be the easiest tenure of his career.

But hey, the Coyotes seem to have a feel good story at the end of every season in recent memory, where Tippett and company turn nothing into something, and maybe Smith will be that next something.

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