Mike Smith played well but never looked fully comfortable in Game 1 of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series versus the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. The Edmonton Oilers stayed in the fight, capitalized on a couple of power-play opportunities, and were tied with the Kings 3-3 with just over five minutes remaining. Around the 14:36 mark, Smith did what Smith often does.
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Considered one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL at playing the puck, Smith was handling it all game long, sometimes to his detriment. He didn’t get himself or his team in any real trouble, that is, until the play that led to the Kings scoring goal number four. Smith came out to get the puck and played it right up the middle of the ice to an awaiting Alex Iafallo. To Smith’s credit, he came back and made two great saves following the turnover, but the puck made its way back out to the blue line where a shot back towards the net hit Phillip Danault and got past Smith.
Oh no Mike Smith what is you doing pic.twitter.com/f33ceI97ej
— Spittin’ Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) May 3, 2022
Smith has been incredible for the Oilers heading into the postseason. There’s every reason to believe he’ll take this loss on the chin and come back in Game Two and compete harder than ever. A true competitor, he’ll likely battle and give the Oilers a chance to even the series. He 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.”
The problem for Edmonton is that Smith did what Smith does and that is to play the puck, far more often than he should. He’s a gamer, but he doesn’t always think first. It’s old adage, that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Can the Oilers trust him to learn from this lesson?
People Will Question Smith Moving Forward
Unfortunately, doubt will now creep in. Media and Oilers fans felt good about the way Smith was playing: his numbers were elite in April. One play will open the door to concern. As Kelly Hrudey said during the second intermission, he couldn’t blame any of the goals in the first two periods of Game 1 on Smith, but the Sportsnet analyst found himself getting nervous for the veteran goalie as he watched, simply because Smith didn’t look confident. To make matters worse, Smith has now lost 10 consecutive playoff games, including every game he’s played for the Oilers.
Was this loss entirely on Smith? No. The Oilers didn’t have a good first period and their third period wasn’t as good as the middle frame. That said, their mistakes were limited up until that point and the goals against were either lucky or extremely strong plays finished off by the Kings. They deserved not to have their goaltender gaffe the way he did.
Edmonton will have to regroup and try to win the second game at home. Going down 2-0 in the series could spell trouble.
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