GLENDALE - Coyotes goalie Mike Smith set multiple franchise records and played in the NHL All-Star Game for the first time this season, a campaign that also featured an injury that cost him 12 games early in the schedule.
Smith finished the season with a 19-26-9 record, with a 2.92 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He ranked sixth in the NHL in saves (1,663) and shots faced (1,1819), despite playing only 55 of 82 games.
"The goal coming in from the summer was to play as consistent as possible, and I think for the majority of the season I was able to do that," Smith said Monday, as the Coyotes officially began the off-season. "I was real proud of the way I mentally handled the situation. It was a tough year, but I'm excited where my game is at and confident that I can do it again next year."
The Coyotes will be counting on Smith to be solid again next season as they attempt to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012.
"It's the NHL," Smith said. "You play to play in the playoffs. When you're out of the playoffs for five years in a row, I think it really leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You want to be playing this time of year. That's why you play 82 games is to compete for the Stanley Cup. (We) fell quite short again this year. Personally, I don't think it's acceptable."
Smith set a new franchise record for games played by a goalie when he played his 312th vs. Minnesota on the final night of the season. He also set new team records for shutouts (21) and saves (8,763). He'll enter next season needing just three wins to set a new franchise record for victories by a goalie.
Smith thrived when pushed to the max. He faced 40 or more shots 12 times this season and notched a 7-2-3 record in those games. His most impressive outing came on Dec. 3 when he made a franchise record 58 saves vs. Columbus. Arizona lost that game in overtime, but it earned a point because of Smith.
"I was real proud of how I just worried about what I could control this year and played probably one of the most consistent years I've had since the first year I got here," Smith said. "I'll take that out of this year and build on that."
Head Coach Dave Tippett said Smith was a solid leader this season and he helped keep the young Coyotes in games.
"In the second half, especially after the trade deadline, there was a lot of games that we were outmatched that he was the equalizer for us," Tippett said. "Most nights he held us in a lot of games. It was a real positive year for him."
Smith suffered a knee injury in the third period of the third game of the season. He got back in the net on Nov. 16 and won three of his first five starts. Later in the season, of course, Smith represented the Coyotes at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game and nearly stole the show that weekend by making an amazing, nearly full-rink shot into a tiny slot using a goalie stick as part of the All-Star skills competition.
"That was an experience that I'll never forget," Smith said. "Having my family there and taking part in such an amazing weekend was pretty cool."
Video: Mike Smith on the 2016-17 season, team's future