Calgary – Jay Woodcroft couldn’t say it enough times on Thursday, the day after the highest-grossing game in playoff history at the Battle of Alberta. The next day, his own goal was allowed to enter nine.
“I was glad we pinned six goals to the starting goalkeeper on the road,” Woodcroft said of the 9-6 loss. “We pinned six goals to the starting goalkeeper in their building. That should be enough to win the match.”
Woodcroft may have a hit-and-run crisis. Therefore, like any coach in the National Hockey League, he did his best to highlight his folds as much as possible. Two hundred feet away, Markstrom was well below average in Game 1.
But Markstrom at least lasted 60 minutes. And is there anyone who doubts that the Vesina candidate will regain his form in the second match?
Then there’s Mike Smith, Gump Worsley at 40.
Smith sniffed off the first shot in Game 1, allowed a second goal at the 51-second mark, and by 6:05 of the first period was pulling the hat off, having allowed three in Flames’ first 10 shots.
It wasn’t a perfect start for our group,” Smith said. “We let each other down.”
Smith stank in game one, but his team did, too. He’s right – they let each other down.
The team can, we expect, bring their defensive play back together. But what about the old goalkeeper, who is suddenly taxed unlike anything he’s been through in five seasons?
Here are today’s notable stats: The last time Smith started nine in a row was the 2017-18 season opener, ironically when it was Calgary Flame.
Last season he started no more than four in a row. Last season, no more than six. The season before that, four. The season before that, five.
On his eighth straight start in Game 1, Smith hit a wall.
Was it one time? Or is he tired?
“No,” Smith announced Thursday. “It’s the playoffs. You want to play the best hockey game of the year. It’s a long streak. Stuff happens…”
Smith promises to return to Game Two. Woodcroft went out of his way to announce that Smith was the start of Game Two, a vote of confidence for sure.
Smith is the goalkeeper here, through thick and thin. But at the age of 40, he was asked to play more hockey than he had played in years.
“It’s about staying the course and not letting games like that affect you mentally and physically,” said Smith, who had been out for most of Wednesday night. “That’s as good as I’ve felt all season. It’s getting the job done when you get the chance. There’s no panic in your game. We’re learning and moving forward.”
Look, everyone knew the Oilers were taking risks when they entered the season with a goalkeeper tandem consisting of 40-year-old Mike Smith and 33-year-old reserve Mikko Koskinen.
Well, now when we find out the answer to that plan.
General Manager Ken Holland denounced free agents Markstrom and Darcy Comber, while Marc-Andre Fleury was not interested in a trip to Oil Country. Therefore, Holland followed the old two-guard system, and when we say archaic, we mean old age.
Edmonton’s goal has been good enough this season, based on Koskinen’s spelling for Smith every three or four games. But due to injuries, since Smith’s arrival three seasons ago, Koskinen has actually had the most regular season starter (102-94) and appeared in more games (109-99).
Suddenly, Smith is in uncharted territory, and the Oilers’ game hopes hinge on the 40-year-old getting his game back.
“My message is I want to go out there and be the backbone,” Smith said. “Help this team stay calm, and it showed through my play.”
The good news is that experience comes with age.
“I wasn’t very good earlier in my career (at his recovery), which is why I may have bounced back a bit. Experience helps,” Smith said. done about it now. I have to think about what happens next.”
The same goes for his team, who put in an outrageous defensive effort in the first game. They got 9-6 because they let in a 17 high-risk shot, a number that needs to be cut by two-thirds.
Can Edmonton gush to this effort?
“Maybe it’s actually easier just because we didn’t play well at all, right?” Zack Heyman said. “It wasn’t one of those games where it’s a tough game and you lose in overtime and you think, ‘We should have won that game. “That was just one to wash up. You’re 1-0 down, back to work.”
Back in action, with their fingers crossed, Smith’s game is back, too.