Mike Smith, “The Hot Goalie,” the key vs. Chicago

For the third straight season, the Phoenix Coyotes defied all odds and critics and have made the Stanley Cup playoffs.

 This time around it won’t be the Detroit Red Wings waiting for them in round one, it will be the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

“Losing the last two years to Detroit, no one likes that,” said Coyote Captain Shane Doan. “But every team that makes the playoffs is going to be tough so it’s going to be a challenge.”

During the 2011-12 season the Coyotes won three of the four meetings with the Blackhawks. In those three victories, Mike Smith was in goal for Phoenix and only allowed four total goals.

For every team, goaltending is one of the biggest, if not the biggest keys for the Coyotes, and Mike Smith may be the one up to the challenge to get the Coyotes past the first round since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg.

The Coyotes are riding a five game winning streak to close out the regular season which landed them the Pacific Division Champion title and the three seed in the Western Conference. In those five games, Smith only allowed two goals.

“I am not going to change what I have done so far because it’s playoffs,” said Smith on Monday. “I approach each game the same and I am going to do that starting with game one Thursday.”

“Smitty is going to be a big part of whatever our game plan is,” added Shane Doan.

Despite the lights out play of Smith, Coach Tippitt explained that the players in front of Smith are just as important.

“A hot goalie has to have players play well in front of him,” explained Tippitt on Monday. “Smitty has played very well for us all season. The last little stretch of play of the season has been excellent and we expect that to continue but we want to make sure we play well in front of him also.”

The puck will be dropped for game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs between the Coyotes and Blackhawks at 7p.m. on Thursday from Jobing.com Arena.

 For more Coyotes playoff coverage, follow Jared Cohen on Twitter at @JaredPros2Preps.