There’s no such thing as an easy win in the NHL. Every game is a battle that features ebbs and flows that dictate the pace of play and swings in momentum that change the final outcome in a matter of minutes.
For the Edmonton Oilers, their game against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 23rd featured the full gamut of emotion. They went down 3-0 in the first period, struggling to keep up with a motivated Canucks team. However, they kept steady, scoring a goal late in the first before posting three more in the third to take the lead and eventually win the game.
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It should come as no surprise that one of the driving factors of this comeback was none other than Leon Draisaitl, who ended the night with three assists and the first star of the game. Despite being a key contributor on the ice, the current second-highest scorer in the NHL gave credit to his goalie for the tough victory.
“He just helps us so much” Draisaitl said. “It’s a big win and Smitty (Smith) is a battler. He hangs in there and he showed that tonight.”
Smith Has Been Key to Oilers’ Success
While the start to the 2020-21 season was slow for the Oilers, this can be traced back to a number of factors, especially players like Smith missing time due to an undisclosed injury suffered before the start of the season. His absence force Mikko Koskinen to start 10 straight games to start the season, wearing down the veteran goaltender.
Since his return, Smith has been excellent for Edmonton, posting five wins in six starts with a .934 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average. While those statistics are inflated due to a small sample size, his play has helped stabilize the Oilers’ net, contributing to their run up the standings.
With an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games, Edmonton went from an outside look at the postseason to firmly in second place in their division. While there is still a lot of hockey left to play, if Smith can continue locking down the net, he will be a major piece of the Oilers’ push towards the 2021 Playoffs.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.