Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

LAING: A tale of two goalies

When the Edmonton Oilers signed Mike Smith to a one-year, $2-million contract in the offseason it came with its skeptics — me being one of them.

I’ve been hard on Smith all year, but it’s hard to argue with the turnaround he’s had this year.

Record SV% GSAA HDSV% SA/60
First 20 games 7-9-2 .893 -5.86 0.796 29.13
Last 17 games 12-1-4 .917 1.76 0.799 31.44

He started off the year with a strong October posting a 4-3-1 record and a .919 save percentage, but the wheels fell off hard in November and December. His record fell to 3-6-1 and he posted a horrendous .875 save percentage. He closed off 2019 on a real low with his last start being a 5-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins where he posted a .840 save percentage.

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Since then, it’s been a comeback for the ages. His save percentage has dramatically increased, as has his goals saved above average (GSAA).

GSAA, explained by Greg Balloch, takes the league average save percentage and applies it to the number of shots a goalie has faced. You, in turn, get a number of goals the average goalie in the league would have surrendered if they faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question essentially giving you a plus/minus about it.

The top goalies in the stat this year? Tukka Rask at 20.62, Pavel Francouz at 17.19, and Anton Khudobin at 16.74, for reference.

Nonetheless, it’s a great tracker for a goaltender’s performance and shows how significant the turn around for Smith has been. A six-percent swing is big, and Smith’s play as of late has been great. A true volume goaltender, it’s interesting to see how Smith has gotten better facing more shots.

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Mikko Koskinen, meanwhile, has been consistently solid for the Oilers this season.

Record SV% GSAA HDSV% SA/60
First 17 games 10-3-2 .917 2.69 0.847 32.22
Last 18 games 7-10-0 .910 1.41 0.808 33.55

He had a strong October and November, but has seen a bit of a dip in numbers since. Last night Koskinen stood on his head for Edmonton and gave the Oilers just enough saves to squeak out a 2-1 OT win.

And when we look back his last seven games, while Koskinen has posted a 2-4 record, his .920 save percentage is keeping the Oilers in games consistently.

Two-headed monster

Oct 27, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) replaces goaltender Mike Smith (41) after Smith let in 3 second period goals by the Florida Panthers at Rogers Place.

Smith’s resurgence has given Edmonton a trustworthy goaltending combo with Mikko Koskinen posting a .911 save percentage and 1.35 GSAA on the year. Edmonton’s .903 team save percentage has risen over time and now is 15th in the league. It’s given Edmonton’s offence the ability to continue to produce, and a large part of it is the heater Smith has been on.

As the team heads into next season, I still am of the mindset that Edmonton needs to bring in a different goaltender to push Koskinen. Smith is still a largely up and down goaltender, as is seen in his cold start and recent hot streak. At 37 years old, Smith isn’t getting any younger and goalies historically over the age of 37 don’t have great seasons.

You have your guys at the top like Roberto Luongo, who posted a .929 in 35 games, or Dominik Hasek who posted a .925, but Smith is far from the goalie either of them were in the NHL.

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Heading down the stretch and into a hopeful appearance in the playoffs, the Oilers are going to need all the help they can get and being able to rely on two guys in net is huge. Disregarding looking into next year, Smith — and Koskinen — are playing great hockey now and that’s all that matters.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

Goalie stats via Stats via Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference.