The Calgary Flames are officially rolling, and there are several reasons why.
But according to Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, it’s all tied to one guy: Mike Smith.
“Mike Smith has been terrific,” Burke said during an appearance on Prime Time Sports Tuesday evening.
“We think he’s an elite goaltender that played on poor teams and his statistics suffered accordingly.”
He right, of course. Prior to joining Calgary via a trade in June, Smith played the bulk of his career in the desert behind a struggling Coyotes team. Now that he’s plying his trade behind a stable of strong defencemen—not to mention, in a hockey-crazed Canadian market that has struggled to find a true No. 1 netminder—he’s excelling in the spotlight.
Smith has long been known for his ability to control the play by controlling the puck and that is already making an invaluable difference for the Flames.
“He gets behind the net and stops the puck and moves it and our D are not getting hit nearly as much or as hard or as often as they did a year ago,” Burke explained. “We’re down over 100 hits on our top four defencemen over this stretch of the season.”
Through 20 games this year with Calgary, Smith has a .922 save percentage, 2.64 goals-against average, one shutout and, most importantly, the trust of his team.
“When you don’t trust your goaltender, the first thing you do is to stop taking offensive chances and your game suffers offensively and then you’re getting back—you’re saying, ‘We’re not giving up that shot,’ so I’m going to get back so then all of a sudden your offence disappears.” Burke said. “It corrodes your whole game. It corrodes your confidence, it corrodes your attack mentality, and there’s no question about it: If you think the guy’s going to stop the puck, you can take some chances you otherwise will not take.”