When the pucks kept sailing past him, over him and even through parts of him, the game seemed ready to poach yet another player on the eve of his prime.

And that would have been completely normal, perhaps even expected.

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith paced the Coyotes last season as a first-year starter, but doing that again, in a condensed amount of time, wasn’t a given.

Consistency usually isn’t, and that’s why the average players grossly outnumber the great ones.

But as much as the game may have tried to betray Smith and steal his self-confidence while he went winless in his first three complete games and allowed 13 goals in that span, the Coyotes wouldn’t let that happen.

They smacked their sticks along the boards in practice after Smith made a slick glove save. Goaltending coach Sean Burke sat Smith down for video sessions to watch examples of his more impressive handiwork from last season.

And even during games, when Smith would prop his elbow on the end of the bench during a TV timeout, captain Shane Doan was in Smith’s ear offering encouragement.

“He is so hard on himself,” Doan said. “But sometimes he needs someone telling him, ‘Take it easy. Give yourself a break. You’re unbelievable.’”