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Rinne on “unreal” Smith: “He was the difference in the series”

May 8, 2012, 2:29 PM EDT

Mike Smith Getty Images

Now this is how you pump a goalie’s tires.

Pekka Rinne — Nashville’s Vezina-nominated, $49-million man — spent a good chunk of his post-elimination presser talking up the guy that out-dueled him over the five-game series, Phoenix’s Mike Smith.

“Their goalie was unreal,” Rinne told Fox Sports Arizona. “He was the difference in this series.”

Smith’s performance in the series including a 168-minute, 45-second shutout streak that covered parts of three games. All told, the 30-year-old stopped 150 of 159 shots against Nashville (a .943 save percentage) and allowed just four goals over the course of Games 3, 4 and 5.

“Smitty was unbelievable in the net,” Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata said. “It was a big effort by everybody, but Smitty was a huge part of it.”

Smith has been huge throughout the playoffs. He leads the league in shots faced (400) despite playing over 90 minutes less than Braden Holtby, No. 2 on the list. He’s also making a strong case to become just the third goalie to win the Conn Smythe since the lockout, though Phoenix would have to be in the Cup final for him to merit consideration.

Of course, Phoenix in the Cup final is now a totally reasonable scenario.

“In the playoffs, you need great goaltending — it just goes without saying,” said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. “If you have great goaltending, you’ve got a chance every night.”

  1. comeonnowguys - May 8, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    He’s singlehandedly carried them now through two series.

    • danphipps01 - May 8, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      Well, not singlehandedly. Give some credit to the massively clutch performances they’ve seen from Hanzal and Boedker. Those guys have been huge in the postseason. Vermette, Doan, Whitney, Yandle, Morris, all big contributors as well. There’s no doubt who their best player is, but let’s not discount the other guys’ efforts.

      • comeonnowguys - May 9, 2012 at 9:23 AM

        I’d still disagree. He was absolutely barraged in the first round, and if he wasn’t lights out, they don’t win those games, instead of winning them in OT.

        Hanzal and Boedker were put in a position to succeed because Smith did what he did.

  2. gatorgar - May 8, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Smith is the man.

  3. blanchonegro - May 8, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    just ridiculous! go yotes!

  4. thehighcountrybear - May 8, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    Good to hear from Rinne…finally! Pekka was basically unheard in round two! And this is a Vezina candidate…really?

  5. donaldreuben - May 8, 2012 at 10:32 PM

    Not sure how you can say he singlehandedly carried them through two rounds. You have to give credit to him no doubt. Don’t get me wrong, he has been the most important player on the team. Key word being team. The Coyotes have great chemistry, lead by the best coach/gm combo in the game. Tippet demands accountability, even among the few stars they have. Sean Burke is a great goalie coach/sports psychologist….singlehandedly, hardly! GO YOTES…finish it off!

    • comeonnowguys - May 9, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      This team doesn’t make this far with even a goalie playing even good. Sorry.

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