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Mike Smith needs some help in front of the net.
The Phoenix Coyotes adhere to a trend we've seen from other teams.
Mike Smith was outstanding in goal for the Coyotes last season. He won 38 of his 68 starts in net, pitching eight shutouts and posting a superb .930 save percentage. With such a sturdy presence in net, Phoenix finished fifth in the league in goals against with 2.37 per game, offsetting their paltry average of 2.56 goals for.
At the same time, Phoenix allowed the third-most shots in the league with 31.6 per game. This figure did not have a substantial impact because of the impressive performance in net by Smith. Here's the thing about Smith, though: Last season seems like a clear outlier for him.
Even including last season, Smith's career save percentage is still just .914, which is decent, but not good enough to stand up to the barrage of shots Phoenix is letting up. It's unlikely Smith has made a leap at age 30; he's probably looking at a decline back closer to his previous level of production next season.
If Smith plays to his career level of production, the Coyotes won't be the playoff team we saw last year. Strong goaltending was covering up for porous defense in Phoenix. The Coyotes will need to shore up that deficiency if they're serious about contending after the lockout.