Not much is going right for the Arizona Coyotes these days.
Losers of eight-straight games in regulation going into Friday night’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks, the Yotes earned their first point in more than three weeks by pushing the game to overtime. But with less than a minute to play in three-on-three, it all went south again.
Anaheim put a couple of quick shots on Arizona goaltender Mike Smith in one last push to end the game. Smith, looking for a quick counter opportunity with less than 40 seconds to go, jumped up from his knees and prepared to launch the puck to an open man. But Smith, on his feet with the puck on his stick in the crease, hesitated to pass for a moment. When he made his move to get the puck to winger Radim Vrbata, Smith was instead stripped by Ducks winger Ondrej Kase, who flipped a shot past the helpless Coyotes netminder to end the game.
Add this blunder by Smith to the stockpile of frustrations for the 34-year-old veteran this season. Not only has he been between the pipes for eight of the nine losses during Arizona’s recent skid – at virtually no fault of his own – he has been forced to make 40 or more saves six times through 24 games played. That includes a 58-save performance on Dec. 3 during which he basically single-handedly forced a shootout, before suffering a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
And then there was this stick break late in a loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 29, an outburst that could be explained by the defeat that night, the losing streak of which his club has been in the midst, or the season as a whole.
Oddly enough, the Coyotes have earned a point in each of the six games that Smith has had to make 40-plus saves, going 4-0-2 in those contests.
So if Arizona’s looking for a way out of this nine-game slide they’re on, maybe it’s time to try a little reverse psychology on their opponents and let Smith face as many shots as possible?