PHOENIX - There's working without a net. And then there's the opposite – working in front of Mike Smith.
On Tuesday night, the Coyotes goalie was once again the ultimate safety net. Smith made 37 saves and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored 56 seconds into overtime to give the Phoenix Coyotes a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues, despite the fact that the Desert Dogs were outshot 39-19.
"It was nice for me to play like that tonight and bail the guys out," Smith said. "I've let in a lot of goals on nights where the guys have bailed me out, so it's nice to be on the other end of the spectrum."
Keep in mind that coming into the game Smith had been peppered with the most shots of any NHL goalie (516) before the Blues added 39 more to that total, including 13 in the third period – highlighted by an extra-large glove save by Smith on Derek Roy's shot from the slot with just under 8 minutes left.
In hockey, there can be a real simple formula for winning – have goalie, will travel.
Just over a month into the season, the Coyotes are tied for the second-best record in the NHL. And, naturally, much of the credit goes to Mike Smith.
For the sake of the financial solvency of the Coyotes' new ownership group, fans are hoping that Smith isn't getting paid by the save.
Already this season, Smith has stopped 41 of 42 shots in a 3-1 win over the Kings and, less than a week later, turned in a season-high 48 saves in a shootout win against the Sharks.
"I don't love it," Smith said when asked if he prefers a heavy workload. "It's just the way things have worked out so far. Obviously, we want to tighten that up and get those shot totals down. Right now, we're just happy to get the two points."
And, by the way, for all the late game drama (seven of the Coyotes 19 games this season have gone into overtime or a shootout) the Coyotes are 8-0-0 when leading after one period.
In football, the elite cornerbacks are referred to as "shutdown corners." Let's just say the Doggies currently feature a "shutdown goaltender."