Life support

Oilers season on Life Support due to weak goals against Mike Smith

The Edmonton Oilers are now down to a 3-0 series deficit after a home loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals. It was once again a hard fought game in which the Oilers had a good chance to win until goaltender Mike Smith scored another weak goal to seal the deal for the Avalanche.

It’s happened too often that the Oilers don’t know what they’re going to get from the 40-year-old goaltender. He has ups and downs like no other and they even occur as closely together as in the same game.

Game 3 loss was on Mike Smith

If you saw the Oilers lose to the Avalanche in Game 3, you understand how frustrating it is for the team and everyone who supports the Oilers when they continuously battle and win a few playoff rounds only to get beaten. by themselves. It doesn’t take anything away from the Avalanche because they’re a great team and have found a way to play good hockey at both ends of the ice, but they’ve also been gifted scorers in the series.

We’ll start with Game 3 when Connor McDavid and the Oilers struck fast and took an early lead, something they don’t get too often. Throughout the ups and downs of the season, one constant has been being able to hold on to a lead once they get it. Their perfect record when they first scored during the regular season, but they still play a completely different game when they’re up rather than down in the game. Raised early and dominating the Avalanche in the first period at five against five, Smith was a little out of position and did not hug the post enough to allow a deflection from his own defender. This can be considered a bad bounce. and a mistake by Smith and Darnell Nurse, but the pucks always seem to rummage through Smith’s gear before finding their way behind him and into the net.

Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was the first weak goal, but the bad one came just after Evan Bouchard hit the post and the puck came the other way, just to have an outside shot out of the offside run of the Avalanche and give the green light to the Avalanche. was leading in the third period after the Oilers fought back to tie the game (from “Edmonton Oilers suffer fatal blow in Game 3 loss to Avalanche”, Edmonton Sun, June 4, 2022). It killed momentum and confidence and seemingly sidelined the series. There has been no team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 loss in the Conference Finals. While not impossible, it’s highly unlikely against the team that has been Stanley Cup favorites all season and has yet to disappoint.

The ups and downs I was referring to in Smith’s Game 3 were the penalties he and the Oilers killed to keep them in the game before the two bad goals I mentioned above. They held the Avalanche to zero in five power plays, including a five-minute chance. Overall, Smith made 39 saves, but didn’t seem to be able to match that strong performance.

Weak goals against Smith cost the Oilers Western Conference Finals

Weak goals didn’t just start in the Western Conference Finals or Game 3, it’s been a theme throughout the season. Smith has struggled with injuries throughout the season, so I guess you can attribute some of the poor play to the nagging injuries. But once he recovered and Jay Woodcroft took over as head coach, Smith stepped up his game with the team. Its high performance was not without its blunders, however.

Smith finished the first round with the third-best save percentage of any goaltender in the playoffs, then the Oilers faced the Calgary Flames. He was taken out in Game 1 after three goals on 10 shots in the first six minutes of play. It wasn’t just once either, as Smith did the same thing in Game 1 against the Avalanche, allowing six goals on 25 shots and being retired 26 minutes into the game. The two times he screwed it up in goal, the Oilers scored six assists in each game, which should have easily translated into wins. It didn’t affect Round 2 as much as Round 3, as the Oilers went on to win four straight against the Flames as they fell to 0-3 against the Avalanche. Perhaps the worst goal of the season was against Smith in Game 4 against the Flames when he left a shot from the opposing end to tie the game. Untimely, very weak and almost cost the Oilers a huge game.

There’s a lot to criticize about Smith’s performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, but six goals and a .760 save percentage says a lot about the story. Game 2 against the Avalanche was also very winnable for the Oilers, but they lost the game in two minutes. The game was close until the start of the second period when the Avalanche scored three goals in 2:04 of playing time. For one of the goals, you can’t blame Smith at all since he was was a two-on-one and the Avalanche scored on a cross-ice pass, but the other two were weak and followed the trend of his poor performance. The first was a floating shot that wasn’t very hard while Smith had a clear line of sight and the second was a one-on-one slap shot that beat him on the short side. Choose whichever was worse, but many goalkeepers would have had at least one, if not both.

Related: 3 Reasons Oilers Won Battle of Alberta

The Oilers will likely return to Smith for Game 4 since he was the best option despite his untimely poor play, but whether he should start in the big games next season should be raised.

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