After a great start to February, Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes have won just one of their past four games and continue to drop in the Western Conference standings. Smith had posted three shutouts in the Coyotes’ first nine games this month, but now appears to have hit a rough patch, allowing four goals in his last two losses. The pas week has been out of character for Smith, who often has to put the team on his back if they have any chance of winning games. The question must be asked: is the strain of starting 12 straight games getting to him, or is this just a bump in the road?
Smith was pulled in Thursday’s loss to the Minnesota Wild after allowing four goals on 19 shots. On Sunday, he gave up five goals to the Calgary Flames on 31 shots, another uncharacteristic outing. Phoenix’s success or failure often hinges on Smith’s performance, and with him now looking more like he did at the start of the season there should be some cause for concern. After leading the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2012, Smith began the 2013 season by allowing 10 goals in his first two starts.
Smith has shown an ability to get wins even when not getting much offensive support, so his recent stretch is more troubling considering the Coyotes have been averaging almost four goals per game in their last six outings. Jason LaBarbera remain a spot start option at best, so Phoenix really needs Smith to return to form soon. The Coyotes face the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday this week as they try and get back in the playoff picture.