Goaltending important to watch as question marks arise in Western Conference Finals

Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
Nothing short of many questions have arisen after 14 goals got racked up against four goaltenders in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals.
Mike Smith allowed six goals on 25 shots, poor enough for a putrid .760 save percentage. He got pulled early in the second period.
59 seconds later, Darcy Kuemper left the game for the Avs with an upper-body injury. He allowed three goals giving him a .813 save percentage.
Mikko Koskinen filled in quite well for the Oilers, stopping 20 of the 21 shots he faced good enough for a .952 save percentage.
On the other side, Pavel Francouz didn’t fare much better than Kuemper. A .857 save percentage where he allowed three goals on 21 shots.
So what exactly happened? Well, both teams forgot to play any defence and four goaltenders got put in tough positions.
In Edmonton, things are quiet about who starts game two.
“We’ll determine Mike’s status and Mikko’s status tomorrow,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft Wednesday morning.
It’s an all-too-familiar situation the Oilers found themselves in. Another stinker in game one. Another game one where the Oilers couldn’t buy a save. In game two against both LA and Calgary, the Oilers went back to the well with Smith and truth be told, I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the case here again.
I’m no body language expert, but after last night’s game you could see Smith’s desire to get back into the crease. He looked mad. He looked like he was ready to go and prove his doubters wrong, like he’s done all year. Smith’s splits have been bizarre to say the least this post-season. In game one’s, he’s posted a .814 save percentage. In every other game? A tremendous .957.
Now over in Colorado, the question of Darcy Kuemper’s health has come into play. He suffered the strange eye injury against the Nashville Predators and Avs bench boss Jared Bednar said “I don’t know yet” when polled about Kuemper’s status for game two.
While Colorado will surely say they feel confident turning to Francouz should the situation arise, it’s clear that he was fighting it last night. That aforementioned .857 save percentage was far from ideal as the Oilers fought and clawed back from a 7-3 deficit to make it close late in the game.
No matter what happens the rest of the way, all eyes will be on the creases.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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