SAN JOSE -- The Sharks are going to have to beat a goaltender who has had their number in recent years Saturday night if they're going to start the season 2-0 with a win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
At one time they did have some success against Mike Smith, going 3-1 in their first four games against him. But San Jose is 0-6-1 against Smith the last seven times they faced him and his stats last year alone were a staggeringly good 2-0-0 with a .985 save percentage and a 0.48 goals against average.
So does coach Todd McLellan worry about Smith's past success getting inside his players' heads?
"If we over-hype a goaltender because he's played well against us, it isn't going to do us any good. We've got to try and help our group and find ways to beat him," McLellan said. "He feels good playing against us. It's our job to try and turn the tide a little bit."
Players say that while they'll factor in Smith's tendencies, the best way to beat him is the same as the best way to beat any goalie: Get traffic in front of the net and multiple shots in succession.
"Any goalie can make the first or second stop," Logan Couture said. "You get the third shot, you're probably going to score.
Smith provides an extra challenge as the NHL's best puck-handling goalie, often serving as a third defenseman to get the Coyote offense going. That means the Sharks have to be extra careful about where they dump the puck in the Phoenix zone.
"We have to keep it away from him," Couture said.
But Joe Pavelski saw Smith's style of play as something that could generate scoring chances for San Jose.
"So if he's playing it in the corners, that's fine because he's out roaming and there's more of a chance to make a mistake," Pavelski said. "But we've got to place it well."