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Former Grizzlie Mike Smith Under Pressure To Take Oilers On NHL Playoff Run

Jan 7, 2020, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:06 am
Mike Smith #41 of the Edmonton Oilers skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New York Isl...
Mike Smith #41 of the Edmonton Oilers skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New York Islanders at NYCB's LIVE Nassau Coliseum on October 08, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The pressure is on former Utah Grizzlie goalie Mike Smith as the Oilers look to him to take their team to the NHL Playoffs.

His pro career started like it was written for a Disney film, after being drafted by Dallas in the fifth round of the NHL DRAFT, Smith was assigned to the Lexington “Men-O-War” in the ECHL where he picked up a shutout and scored an empty-net goal in his first game.

Smith was then assigned to finish the season as the back-up to Dallas’ first-round pick, Jason Bacashihua, in Utah. In his 2 seasons with the Grizzlies, he played only 32 games and posted a respectable 90.8 percent SAA. He left an impression with Grizzlie fans.

His bravado and competitiveness became polarizing for those around him – even his stance was cocky. You either loved him or hated him.

He has played the past 17 seasons in the NHL with that same intensity and the results were the same – home town crowd favorite or villain.

Smith has been with the Stars, Lightning, Coyotes, Flames and now with the Edmonton Oilers. Each team brought him in to be the difference-maker, the x-factor that takes a team from competitor to Stanley Cup Champion.

Last season with the Flames he put on a show in the playoffs and gave the Flames more of a chance than they probably deserved but at the end of the season, the fans and the Flames were done with Smith.

The Edmonton Oilers signed Smith to a one year, $2 million deal for this season to see if he could take the extremely talented and deep Oilers from the notoriously underachieving team they have been for the past several years to the dynasty all the “experts” think they should be. The problem is, he’s not performing and there is a new young guy that looks poised to take his job.

Smith started out the season with great numbers. In his first nine starts of the season, he posted a 5-3-1 record with about a 93 percent save average.

The next nine games didn’t go well. Smith posted a 2-6-1 with an 85 percent SAA and over 4 goals against per game average.

Enter Mikko Koskinen.

The Finn started 11 of the 14 games for the Oilers in December. With the NHL these days, it’s hard to find out if players are injured or ill, but something has seen Smith take the net back for the past three games, and he’s making the most of the opportunity.

Smith played well enough to pick up a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo and then pulled out a 4-1 upset over the Boston Bruins.

Last night, Smith played a flashy game and managed to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs (it helps to have some of the heroic goals that Connor McDavid).

In the game against the Leafs, Smith had moments where he looked confident and like one of the league’s best but he also had moments where his save selection made him look like a men’s league goalie just trying to outguess the shooter. He even got beat while “stacking the pads” and fanning his glove, the way goalies did in the 80s.

I’d like to see Smith go out as a winner.

Out of the Grizzlies alumni in the NHL right now, I always thought he would be one that left the NHL as a legend.

After all, his first game seemed like it was right out of a movie.

Utah Puck Report is a podcast all about Utah hockey, from interviews with NHL stars to which Grizzlies players are about to take the next step, Utah Puck Report has everything for a Utah hockey fan. Find it wherever you find podcasts or on KSLSports.com.

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