There are some things we see when perusing NHL standings that seem unusual but presumably earned, like the Rangers leading the Eastern Conference. Then there are supremely wacky but ultimately explicable things, like Detroit's 26-3-2 home-ice record. (The Red Wings have all those good players, you know and they've always won at home.) But then there are things that absolutely confound us, like the fact that the Phoenix Coyotes have gone 10-0-1 in February.
The Coyotes have the worst power play in the league. 39-year-old Ray Whitney leads the team in points, 30-year-old Radim Vrbata leads the team in goals. Their next-best forwards are old guy Shane Doan, Lauri Korpikoski, and unnecessarily tall guy Martin Hanzal. Really. Their defense is Keith Yandle, Adrian Aucoin, Rostislav Klesla, that crew. Nothing special. And their goalie is Mike Smith! Mike "Supplanted By Geriatric Dwayne Roloson" Smith!
But again, somehow this team is 10-0-1 this month, and it's actually Smith's doing. He's 10-0 with a 1.47 goals against average and a .948 save percentage. This is great news.
We've long had a soft spot for Smith, whose recklessness and stand-up style remind us of an era before the recent, dull proliferation of the butterfly. (Lots of goalies look the same now, and there's always one coming out of nowhere to conquer hockey for a few fleeting moments. This year, it's former ninth-round pick Brian Elliott of the St. Louis Blues, who would probably win the Vezina if he weren't splitting time with equally effective former ninth-round pick Jaroslav Halak.)
Mike Smith won't have any of that. He stands up. He chases after the puck too much and, when he gets it, he shoots it a long way. He fights position players. (According to The Hockey News, Mike Smith is the only goalie in history to record a shutout, score a goal and receive a fighting major in the same game. That's Mike Smith hockey.) These sound like bad tendencies, and I suppose they are, to fans of his team when he's not playing well.
But when he's on his game—like he is now, during the best stretch of his seven-year career—his style lifts us all out of the grinding, wintry doldrums (how fitting that Smith has played his whole NHL career in warm climates: Dallas, Tampa, and now Phoenix) and reminds us how spontaneous and unexpected good hockey can be.