The Edmonton Oilers are rolling it back to Mike Smith.
Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft was non-committal on his starting goaltender Wednesday after another disastrous Game 1 for Smith that saw the 40-year-old allow six goals on 25 shots in just over 26 minutes of work.
Smith has a 3.12 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and was confirmed by Woodcroft as his starter for Game 2 against the Colorado Avalanche.
“Mike Smith is our starting goalie tonight,” Woodcroft said.
“I don’t think you have the career that he has unless you’re able to have short memory sometimes. I think he’s a true pro in his approach to the game, the way he treats himself and recovers and resets. Someone once told me they compared him to an alley cat. He’s a fighter, a scrapper, a clawer.”
Smith was also pulled after allowing three goals on 10 shots in just over six minutes of action in a 9-6 loss to the Calgary Flames in Game 1 of the second round two weeks ago. He rebounded to make 37 saves in a 5-3 win in Game 2 against the Flames.
“We’re very confident in Mike,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Wednesday. “We’re very confident in both goalies. Obviously we didn’t do enough to help Mike out early in the game. Just gave them way too many really good chances. Obviously a team like that is going to find a way to put those in.”
On the other side, the Oilers caught a break with the opposite goaltending situation. The Avalanche will be without starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper for Game 2.
Kuemper was pulled midway through Game 1 because of an upper-body injury. Pavel Francouz came on in relief. Colorado coach Jared Bednar confirmed Thursday morning that Kuemper, who did not participate in morning skate, would not be an option Thursday.
“Kuemper’s out,” he said.
Kuemper is 6-2 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 10 starts this postseason. Francouz, who also replaced Kuemper in Game 3 of their opening-round series against the Nashville Predators and started Game 4 of that series, is 3-0 with a 3.59 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in three appearances.
“He’s been outstanding for us all year,” Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor told media Wednesday. “I don’t think we have to change anything. We have the utmost confidence in him. He’s a great team player, always trying to learn, always working hard on the details.
“We have tons of confidence in ‘Frankie,’ so we’re excited.”