With the Edmonton Oilers trying to emerge from a 2-9-2 slump, goaltender Mike Smith is reminding himself he’s been through this before. The 39-year-old believes the old cliché about trying to keep an even keel is important to remember.
Even though he didn’t always follow it himself.
“It’s definitely something I’ve learned the hard way throughout the course of my career. I used to beat myself up quite a bit, before kids, before I had a family. I’d wear it pretty hard,” said Smith after Saturday’s optional practice.
“Playing with Shane Doan for six years, I think he just told me the ebbs-and-flows can’t be so high and low. When things are going really well, it’s nice. But when things aren’t, you can’t be so down that it’s so far to climb back out of that hole.”
Smith and fellow goalkeeper Mikko Koskinen have been facing a lot of criticism, and not all of it has been from outside the locker room.
On Monday, after a loss to the Rangers, head coach Dave Tippett said Koskinen made a “brutal mistake” on one goal against. Koskinen then did an interview with a Finnish reporter pointing out that the Oilers aren’t scoring a lot when he’s in goal.
“I’ve played with Tip before and I’ve heard similar stuff. It’s nothing new. I like what Mikko said, too. I think he stuck up for himself. It’s not all on the goalies.
“It’s not one player in the room that’s going to turn this thing around. It’s a group effort,” said Smith.
“People can point fingers all they want, but at the end of the day, one person’s not going to change this thing. Right now, our team game isn’t good enough to get us over the hump. As a team, we need to be better. Each individual needs to up their game a little bit more.”
Smith’s season hasn’t been an easy one. He suffered a lower-body injury in October and missed over two months. He came back in late December and was hurt again on New Year’s Eve against New Jersey when he stopped a breakaway in overtime. He missed two games before returning Wednesday in Toronto.
“It was just a freak thing. My thumb got bent back. I went paddle down and got put in a bad situation. I’ve played pro hockey for 20-plus years and never had that happen,” explained Smith.
Five players went into COVID protocol on Saturday: Kailer Yamamoto, Evan Bouchard, Brendan Perlini, Slater Koekkoek, and Ilya Konovalov.
Connor McDavid, Tyson Barrie, and Derer Ryan are on the verge of leaving protocol and should be available for the game on Monday against Ottawa (630 CHED, Face-off Show 6 p.m., game at 8 p.m.).