Every time Mike Smith handled the puck this week, a deluge of boos greeted the moment. In other instants, when the action was a bit dull, the Coyotes goaltender heard 20,000 or so voices confidently assure him that he sucks.

To think: The ice was not the only United Center precinct in which Smith conjured animosity. In the stadium's back hallways, his teammates seethed while Smith had a ball there too.

"In our soccer game, he's Public Enemy No. 1," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said with a smile. "No, he's unbelievable. If they're not booing you, you're not doing your job."

Smith has done the job, amused and fueled by the rage of Blackhawks fans and frustrating their club to the brink of postseason extinction in Game 5 on Saturday. He was terrific in the regular season, and he has been even better as his team built a 3-1 series lead.

No, to the dismay of the Hawks, Mike Smith doesn't suck.

"I love it," Smith said of the ire he has drawn. "Playoff brings it to a whole new level. It's been a fun couple games here. They're not booing because I'm a bad player, obviously. They're great fans. Like I've said before, if I wasn't playing hockey, I'd be up there with them, yelling."

At this point, they are screams of agony. Because Smith — already in Vezina Trophy chatter for his regular-season performance — has been stauncher, fractionally, against the Hawks.