Call it deja vu for the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers had themselves a third straight disastrous Game 1, and it had coach Jay Woodcroft tiptoeing around a simple question.
What did you think of Mike Smith and will he play in Game 2?
“I thought Mike Smith was excellent for us all playoffs long,” Woodcroft offered, diplomatically. “Last night I didn’t think we did much as a team to help him out in certain situations.
“We’ll determine Mike’s status and Mikko [Koskinen]’s status tomorrow.”
Call it a goaltending controversy. Maybe.
Smith allowed six goals on 25 shots in 26:20 of action before being yanked from his second straight Game 1, an opening 8-6 loss against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final to fall behind 1-0 in the best-of-7 series.
“We’re very confident in Mike,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “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.”
Surprising, in one sense.
Unsurprising, in another.
Smith was pulled just over six minutes into Game 1 of Edmonton’s second-round series against the Calgary Flames after allowing three goals on 10 shots in an eventual 9-6 loss. The Oilers won four straight following the setback to advance to face Colorado.
He was endorsed by Woodcroft after the lopsided loss.
He also allowed four goals on 35 shots in a 4-3 loss against the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the playoffs and coughed up a backbreaking giveaway that led to the game-winner.
Woodcroft played coy after that Game 1, but did return to Smith.
In fact, the Oilers have surrendered 31 goals in five Game 1s since Smith joined the team three years ago.
“Obviously, we don’t like game ones,” Smith said Tuesday night. “We’re a resilient group that doesn’t just roll over and die. That’s an encouraging part. When you’re giving up touchdowns in the last two series’ game ones, I think it’s not a good sign.”
Smith is 8-3-0 in the playoffs, and sports a 3.12 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Koskinen has been tagged with two losses in three appearances, including Tuesday against the Avalanche, and has a 4.02 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in just over 89 minutes of work.
Smith has started each of the 13 playoff games this postseason.