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2015-16 Arizona Coyotes Season Preview: Goaltending

Highlighting the Coyotes goaltending before the season begins.

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Dave Tippett's teams tend to live or die with the goaltending. Of course poor goaltending wasn't the only reason that the Arizona Coyotes were terrible last season, but it definitely didn't do them any favors, and it likely won't do them many this season.

Goaltending is actually a much larger question mark this season for the Coyotes than even last year's numbers suggest, as this will be the team's first year without "Goalie Whisperer" Sean Burke as goaltending coach since 2008. Burke and the Coyotes parted ways this past offseason, and the Coyotes replaced him with Jon Elkin with the parent club, and Corey Schwab with the youngsters.

Mike Smith: The Starter

Mike Smith certainly has had his ups and downs since joining the Coyotes organization, although after his first year it has been mostly downs. Last year was by far his worst year with the team, finishing with a 14-42-5 record and a 5v5 save percentage of 91.21.

It is honestly hard to imagine Smith playing worse than he did last season; his 5v5 Save Percentage was the lowest it had been since the 2010-11 season where he played 22 games with the Lightning.  If you consider his best and worst seasons to be outliers we should probably expect Smith to play much better than last season but not as well as he did his first year with the team.

Smith may benefit the most from the change in goaltending coach this year. Smith and Elkin have a history, which could potentially Smith psychologically and improve his mental game.  Smith has seemed shaken during rough stretches these past few years, and when he is playing poorly it only seemed to compound.  Last season Smith even began to see a sports psychologist last season, which may have attributed to him playing better down the final stretch.

Anders Lindbäck: The Backup

Lindbäck comes to the Coyotes as a free agent after splitting last season with the Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres.  Very much like Mike Smith, Lindbäck's time with the Sabres was him playing behind a very bad team; the Buffalo Sabres were last in the NHL in regards to Corsi For Percentage with an abysmal 37.5% rating, but Lindbäck was playing pretty good all things considered towards the end.  In Buffalo he had a 5v5 Save Percentage of 92.66, which is slightly better then what you would expect for him looking at his career numbers.

Last season the Coyotes were very lucky to get Devan Dubnyk as a backup, a career starter who had an off year and went on to get Vezina nominations after being traded to the Minnesota Wild who rode him into the playoffs.  Looking at Lindbäck it doesn't seem likely that lightning will strike again. Dubynk was a starter in a backup role and always had the potential to steal the show, while Lindbäck seems to be a career backup goaltender who hopefully can perform well in his role.

Louis Domingue: The call-up

Domingue's status with the team was one of the more interesting RFA stories this past year with initial reports that he would be spending the 2015-16 season in Europe with an unnamed team.  At some point between the end of July and early September he changed his mind and signed a one-year two way deal with the Coyotes.

Although most of his career was spent with the Portland Pirates and Gwinnett Gladiators in the past, Domingue did finally see NHL time last season in seven after the team traded away Dubnyk.  Like Smith, the team that played in front of him wasn't that great, but he did have a 5v5 Save Percentage of 91.38.

Unless there is an injury to either Smith or Lindbäck, Domingue likely won't be seeing time with the big club, but this will be an important season in the AHL with Springfield for St Hyacinthe native, and may determine his future with the Arizona Coyotes.

Final Thoughts

Looking at the Yotes' offense, if the team is going to be competitive then Mike Smith needs to be excellent this year.  At this point, it doesn't seem likely Mike Smith will play well enough to drag a team into the Western Conference Finals, but it seems extremely likely that he will play better than he did last year.  Lindbäck should make a decent backup, but hopefully Smith won't be down for any long stretches.