by PuckStopsHere on 11/20/11 at 06:00 PM ET
In early November I picked Nikolai Khabibulin of the Edmonton Oilers as the top goalie in the league. He is having a surprisingly good season given his poor recent past. While he remains a top goalie so far this season, there is another goalie who has surpassed him. He is Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Mike Smith has almost as good a saves percentage as Khabibulin at .936 and a 2.16 GAA. He has faced a much tougher workload than Khabibulin has. He has made the second most saves this season behind Pekka Rinne, but with three fewer games played. Smith has been a huge part of the Coyotes success so far this season.
Mike Smith is a comeback story. He was a potential laden goaltender who came into the NHL with the Dallas Stars. He was traded to Tampa Bay as a big part of the Brad Richards trade. In Tampa he was an immediate success. He posted a .916 saves percentage in his first full year there (2008/09) and some picked him as having an outside chance at representing Canada in the 201 Olympics. He suffered a concussion to end the season and in the next few years he wasn’t the same. Last season he cleared waivers and spent five games in the AHL. Signing as a free agent this summer in Phoenix, his career has been reborn. He has been a very good free agent signing to replace Ilya Bryzgalov, who left the Coyotes to go to Philadelphia. Smith has far outplayed Bryzgalov so far. He has been the top goalie in the league.
Mike Smith may not remain the top goalie over the whole season, but he has been so far. It took a couple years for him to fully recover from his concussion. Phoenix is benefitting from his play. Without Mike Smith, the Coyotes would be outside the playoff race. His comeback is a big story so far this season, but it has largely been missed in the media because it has been out of the top NHL markets.
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