To put it politely, Mike Smith owes the Edmonton Oilers an unbelievable effort in Game 2 of their first-round series versus the Los Angeles Kings. After pulling the most “Mike Smith”-like move anyone could imagine in the final few minutes of Game 1, all eyes are on the 40-year-old netminder who admittedly has put the Oilers in an early hole.
Outside of the huge gaffe to end the game, Smith didn’t look terrible, and to be fair, there were times during the opening game of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs that the Oilers looked nothing like the team that dominated in the final 15 games of the regular season. That said, Smith also never looked completely comfortable. Perhaps Kelly Hrudey said it best when during the second intermission of the broadcast on Sportsnet noted that he couldn’t blame any of the goals in the first two periods of Game 1 on Smith, but Hrudey found himself getting nervous for the veteran goalie as he watched the game unfold.
Then, with minutes left in a tie game, Smith came out of his net to make a play with the puck and fed it right up the middle to an awaiting Alex Iafallo. Smith did make a couple of big saves in an attempt to right a massive wrong, but it was too late as the bouncing puck worked its way back from the blue line and hit Phillip Danault before going in and making it a 4-3 game.
Smith Took Responsibility
Smith said after the game, “I was trying to make something happen and I tried to do too much. You can’t make that play at that time. It cost us the game.” He added, “You can’t do anything about it now. We have to move on and get over it.” Sitting beside him, Connor McDavid indirectly went to bat for his goalie and noted that the Oilers didn’t come out well, likely overcome by the emotion in the building, and fought their way back into it. It came down to one bounce.
Whether Smith will learn from this and stay in a net a bit more often, or he will continue to play his game is unclear. What is clear is that this is what you get with a gunslinger. These are the highs and lows of going with someone who tries to make a play on every puck that comes his way. Sometimes you get the magical overtime pass to McDavid against the San Jose Sharks. Other times you get a turnover that leads to a goal to put your team down one game in a best-of-seven series.
The hope is that there are more good decisions than bad.
Oilers Fans Need To Understand This Is The Bed Holland Made
The emotional rollercoaster that will be these playoffs is real and everyone is already feeling it, no one more than Smith right now. It’s easy to forget just how good Smith was to close the regular season and he’s a huge part of why the Oilers finished in second place and secured home-ice advantage in the first round. When judging him and jumping down his throat because of the miscue in Game 1, everyone should try to remember that.
It’s also fair to question whether Smith will do what Smith has often done in the playoffs and that overthink things and fail to backstop the Oilers to a win. Smith has now lost 10 consecutive playoff games, including every game he’s played for the Oilers. That’s not much of a confidence booster.
Can he be as calm and unaffected as his post-game media presser suggests? The Oilers can only hope so because they’ll need him to rebound and put together a string of mistake-free games to get the Oilers tied, the lead, and then ultimately a win in the series.
Oilers Need to Settle In
Like Smith, the Oilers need to settle in and play the same game they’ve been playing to close the season. Edmonton got saved by their power play on Monday, only for Smith to give the game and the chance at a win away. The Oilers can’t rely on calls from the officials and need to get back to better five-on-five play. Meanwhile, Smith, when he has the chance, needs to think about the stakes of his decisions.
In overplaying the puck, Mike Smith did what Mike Smith often does. Let’s hope he can also do what he does and often isn’t given credit for, compete like there’s no tomorrow. The Oilers don’t need to be told what’s riding on Game 2.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”