The Edmonton Oilers’ Mike Smith was having the best season of his career, when he met the Toronto Maple Leafs four days ago on Hockey Night in Canada. He had a 6-0-0 record, 1.73 GAA, and .944 save percentage in seven starts this season. But he couldn’t move the dial to 7-0-0. Instead, he allowed four goals on 29 shots and the Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell tossed a shutout at the Oilers for a 4-0 Maple Leafs’ win.
On Monday evening the Oilers were shut out by the Maple Leafs again and Smith’s partner in goal Mikko Koskinen game up three goals in 10 shots during the first period. Smith came in to relieve Koskinen for periods two and three and allowed nothing from the Maple Leafs. He was on his game again.
Smith Is Having a Stellar Season in Goal
That one loss to the Oilers does little to dilute Smith’s great season. In fact, looking at the NHL’s leader boards shows that Smith is tied for the lead in save percentage with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy at .938 and he’s third in goals-against-average with a 1.87.
A Bit About Mike Smith’s NHL Background and Career
For those who don’t know Smith’s background, he’s a 38-year-old goalie who’s played for five different NHL teams (the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Arizona Coyotes, and the Calgary Flames) during 16 career seasons in the NHL. Now in his second season with the Oilers, he’s looking to have his best season in almost a decade.
Smith had his best NHL season during the 2011-12 season playing for the Phoenix Coyotes. But that was almost a decade ago, and few of his most ardent fans would have suspected that now – ten years later – he’d be having what might be a career season. That season, Smith tended the Coyotes through 67 games with a record of 38-18-10, a save percentage of .930, and a goals-against-average of 2.21.
During the 2020-21 season this far, Smith is playing better than he was during his prime – assuming that 2011-12 was his prime. He’s way ahead of those statistics this season. Now, the question is: can he keep up that pace?
It isn’t possible that Smith is just now reaching his prime at the age of 38 – is it?
So Far, Smith’s Play Is Carrying the Oilers to Success
Better yet for the Oilers, Smith’s current 2020-21 season’s record, which now stands at 6-1, is helping to carry his Oilers. Some games Smith simply looks unbeatable.
It is also no coincidence that, in connection with Smith’s solid goaltending, the Oilers have also experienced recent success – well at least until they were shut out two games in a row by the Maple Leafs. Still, even with those frustrating losses, the Oilers hold an 11-4 record over their last 15 games.
In the Thursday night game immediately before he lost to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, Smith had a 32-save against the Vancouver Canucks. Not counting the two periods on Monday evening against the Maple Leafs, Smith now has two shutouts on the season and these have come in only eight full games he’s started.
Had Smith not been sidelined on long-term injured reserve with a leg injury, his record would likely be even better. Smith’s play can be defined in two terms – he’s a confident battler. When you watch Smith play in goal, he seems to be absolutely confident. Most nights he simply looks great.
Is Smith’s Goalie Play Sustainable?
The Oilers’ season might be resting on the question of how long Smith, at his age and with the workload needed to play during this unique season that is both shortened and condensed, maintain his high level of play over the remainder of the season? Smith shows no indication of slowing down and – until his 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs – seemed to be improving every time he started in goal.
Speaking of the Maple Leafs, the Oilers will look to bounce back to win the final game of its three-game home series against the North Division’s leading team. The Oilers are looking for their first goal in two games – actually since February 25.
If the Oilers can score a few and Smith can keep more Maple Leafs goals out of the net, the Oilers can take at least one of the three games. That would move them back into second place in the North Divison – the Winnipeg Jets squeaked by with tonight’s win over the Canucks.
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