Jay Woodcroft, Edmonton Oilers coach, knows who his starter is for Game 2.
He’s just not telling.
Woodcroft, Oilers lose 4-3 in Game 1.These cards are being closely guarded by the Western Conference First Round series against Los Angeles Kings.
“Yes, I do know and we’ll wait until tomorrow, most likely to share it,”He spoke so factually to media Tuesday.
“How about that.”
After Mike Smith’s lapse in Game 1, the question arose at 14:46 in the third period.
Smith threw the puck in the middle of the ice nonchalantly, appearing to be trying to hit Leon Draisaitl for an outlet. Instead, he found Kings forward Alex Iafallo at the slot. Smith rushed back into his crease to make the diving save but a point shot by Sean Durzi was deflected in off Phillip Danault just moments later.
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“I was just trying to make something happen, obviously trying to do too much there,”Smith stopped 31 out of 35 shots during the game. “In a tight game like that, you can’t afford to make mistakes like that. It ended up costing us the game. Obviously disappointed, but it’s one game and we move on.”
The play, questioned by media, prompted further query into whether or not Smith — whose puck playing prowess is both problematic and second-to-none in the league — would return to tend twine in Game 2.
“I think it was one puckhandling error,”Woodcroft reasoned Tuesday. “He made a big save off of that error. We can all do things together that can help him in this situation. Communication is key to speed, and I believe that it will help you communicate well. We can do a better job there. I think it’s a real skill of his.
“That one play you’re referencing is one that he’d like to have back, but it’s a real asset of his.”
Smith has lost five consecutive playoff games to the Oilers.
Including his time as a member of the Calgary Flames, he’s dropped 10 straight postseason contests.
“He’s a leader on our team,” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. “He’s vocal in the locker room. Everybody makes mistakes during a game. Even after that, he made a tremendous save to get back in net. And we could’ve helped him out. So it wasn’t a one-off that went into the back of the net. There was a series of things that could’ve been done to prevent it.
“He’s been phenomenal for us and a huge part of our team, huge leader in the locker room, just a great teammate.”
Smith won his last nine regular season games, tying Jacques Plante for the distinction of being the second goaltender aged 40 or over to win such a streak. He posted a 1.66 goals-against-average and a.951 save percentage, with two shutouts.
Woodcroft’s other option is on-again, off-again backup Mikko Koskinen.
Koskinen finished 27-12-4, with a 3.10 goals against the average and a.903 save rate in 45 games.
Edmonton’s bench boss doesn’t have to make a decision — or reveal that decision — until the series resumes at Rogers Place on Wednesday.
“We’ve got time,”Woodcroft stated. “We’ll use it.”