When Ken Holland took over as the Edmonton Oilers general manager prior to the 2019 – 20 NHL season, he didn’t make a lot of big off-season moves. However, he did make some. One move that seemed sort of under the radar was his signing of free-agent goalie Mike Smith.
The 37-year-old Smith had played with the Calgary Flames during the past two seasons, with a record of 48-38-8 (a 2.99 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 97 games).
Holland noted at the time that Smith was “a very competitive guy who can handle the puck.” And, over the course of his career of 13 NHL seasons with the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes, and the Flames, Smith had a combined record of 243-236-68 with a 2.70 GAA and a .912 save percentage. And, in truth, his play was often better than his record because he often played with some mediocre teams at best.
When Smith signed with the Oilers he said, “I’m looking forward to being in an Oiler uniform.” And he noted that he didn’t have the kind of starting was looking for last year and had to mentally refocus; however, Smith also said that he felt he had “played my best hockey down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
Smith Has His Mojo Back
One thing Smith did note during the off-season was that his confidence had returned. Specifically, he said that he had his “mojo back and still feel like I can be a big part of a team’s success.” He also vowed to do his best to get the Oilers back into the playoffs.
Well, he’s doing just that. In fact, one thing that the Oilers did not expect was Smith’s leadership. And a note from CBS sports, Smith is reported to have become a leader for the Oilers both on the ice and in the dressing room.
Never was his leadership more evident than during Smith’s sensational play Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins when he stopped 51 of 52 shots during a 2-1 overtime win. It was an amazing game, and Smith stole it from the Penguins.
Head coach Dave Tippett complimented Smith after the game by saying, “He’s got swagger, I’ll say that. It’s just the way he plays, he’s engaged in the game all the time.”
Tippett specifically noted Smith’s strong play greatly over-time period. “He’s out there, he plays the puck, he makes great saves and he is a leader. He comes to the bench, he’s barking at guys on timeouts and stuff like that. He stepped up and is giving us a presence in there that’s helped us win some games.”
So far this season, Smith is 5-3-1 and carries a 2.12 GAA and a .931 save percentage. (from “Oilers notes: Ethan Bear plays his part in shutting down Crosby and Malkin, Derek Van Diest, Edmonton Sun, 11/2/19)
How Great Was His Game Against the Penguins?
Here are some notes about just how great was his game against the Penguins.
Smith made 51 saves during the game. Shots came at him from every conceivable angle throughout this game. In fact, during the second and the third intermission hockey commentator Brian Burke specifically noted that he was afraid for the Oilers during the third. Burke didn’t believe that Smith could keep up his stellar work for three periods. However, Burke was wrong. Smith not only kept up the good work, but he got better in the third period and overtime.
In response, the Oilers never had more than eight shots during a single period throughout the game. The only reason they Oilers won was that Smith led them to victory. The jury is out on whether he can continue to play so well. However, for one shining moment …
What’s Next with Mike Smith?
What have the Oilers got in goal with Mike Smith? They seem to have both a solid goalie and a leader on and off the ice.
Smith has had an outstanding start to the season. However, so has his goalie-mate Mikko Koskinen. Together, the two goalies are part of the Edmonton Oilers resurgence that has led the team into first place in the Pacific division of the NHL. These days, the Oilers are a fun team to watch. One way or another, the team seems to be able to win.
Oh, by the way, did you notice that I wrote an entire post on the Edmonton Oilers without mentioning either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl? That doesn’t happen too often these days; however, it’s nice to know that the Oilers have other players than this dynamic duo.