Kristen J Shilton : USATODAY
Thanks to burgeoning young stars such as Anthony Duclair and Max Domi, there are more eyes on the Coyotes this season. But maintaining a healthy perspective on early success is imperative to long-term viability. Before Wednesday, Smith hadn’t recorded a shutout since February 2014.
“Obviously it’s a bonus, but to play the way we did tonight, in this building, it shows a lot about our group,” he said. “It’s nice to get the shutout, but more importantly, I like to see how they’re playing in front of me.”
One of those guys is Domi, the rookie who was selected 12th overall in the 2013 draft. He recorded a goal and an assist against Anaheim. Even though the Coyotes had established a four-goal lead by the second period, the rookie said they remained committed to their game plan.
“More or less, (our strategy) was just playing smart and not backing off,” Domi said. “That’s how you win. It was a great team effort.”
“We want to play fast and physical and we want to play a 200-foot game,” added Duclair, who tallied a hat trick. “(Plus) making sure we’re aware defensively and doing the right things.”
When Smith, 33, signed a six-year, $34 million extension with Arizona that began in 2013-14, it showed the team was hoping he’d be an anchor for its rebuild. The Coyotes have missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, going 24-50-8 last year.
While many wrote off them well before opening night, Smith is far from bothered by the low expectations.
“I like the frame of mind people are in,” he said. “We’re a group that wasn’t really touted to be a top team in this league and we take pride in proving people wrong. We have a good mix of guys in here, young and old, and the young guys are bringing some fresh energy and it is fun to see.
“We believe, after beating the teams we did, that we can compete with any team in this league and we need to continue to be the hardest working team on the ice every night.”