Mike Smith's been getting one heck of a workout since the season began.
The Coyotes' netminder entered Thursday's game against the Blackhawks leading NHL goaltenders in saves and shots faced since the 2013-14 campaign began.
Things didn't ease up for him inside the United Center as the defending Stanley Cup champions managed to fire 52 shots his way before going on to record a 5-4 win in a shootout, marking their first win on home ice over the Coyotes in seven games.
"It's just the way things have gone," Smith said. "Seems like it's always a one-goal game or overtime or something crazy goes on during the game to make it exciting. They're fun games to be a part of, they're competitive and for the whole 60 minutes it's an exciting building to play in."
After facing a two-goal deficit early in the first period, the Coyotes managed to hold on despite the noise the Blackhawks created in front of the opposing net throughout the night.
These two teams entered Thursday's game with 28 points each — just three points behind the league-leading Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks narrowed that gap further, and the Coyotes were happy to get the point after allowing such a high number of shots.
"I think against a team like that in their arena we'll take it, but I think the guys are trying to get me down to 170 or something," Smith joked about the shots on goal. "All seriousness though, we clawed back in it and we got a big point on the road and found a way to keep up in the standings."
Smith didn't complain about the high traffic he's seen throughout the last month and a half, but his teammates said that in order to keep their record up, they'll have to stop allowing so many shots on net.
"The amount of time spent in our own zone takes its toll on you," said Michael Stone, who recorded two of the Coyotes' four goals. "It's another reason there's so many shots against us. We gotta work on cutting that down and taking care of the puck a little better.
"There's not a whole lot (Smith) can do when we keep giving up that many shots. He's battling right now but eventually it's gonna break and there are going to be big problems."
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But it wasn't the 52 shots that seemed like a big problem to Smith on Thursday night; it was another run-in with Andrew Shaw that concerned him most.
Both players revisited a bit of old history as Smith believed Shaw made a dangerous play on a drive to the net during the third period of the game — the same issue that earned Shaw a three-game suspension for in the 2012 playoffs against Phoenix.
Smith was once again unhappy after the collision, and he didn't hold back his feelings toward Shaw's on-ice antics after the game.
"He has a reputation of two years ago, knocking me out and it was kind of a dirty play back in front again," Smith said. "I've talked about it numerous times with the league. When we talk about vulnerable hits, that's a goalie down in front trying to make the save and guy sticks his elbow out. That's attempt to injure as far as I'm concerned."
But drama aside, Smith made the stops he needed to in order to get the Coyotes a point on the road. His teammates will work to give him the support he needs to keep their record up, but for now, the team is more than happy with what they've seen from their goaltender.
"He's been outstanding, he's giving us a chance to win," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He's giving us a chance to get points, you can't ask anything more from him."