After months of Mike Smith to start the season, when the Oilers needed him most, Schmidty has officially returned.
Before I get started, I feel like I should acknowledge my past criticisms of Mike Smith. Earlier this season, I have gone on record calling Smith things such as “the king of getting horribly out of position”, that he should “be in Florida or Cancun or wherever people go to retire”, even going as far as to say that he was bad at his job (me, 2021-22). Now that the dust has settled and I have been able to look at the big picture, I would like to clarify that I 100% stand by every single one of those statements. At the start of the season, Mike Smith was bad at hockey. But Mike Smith is gone, banished, set ablaze, and from his ashes, Schmidty has risen.
To begin the 2021-22 season, Mike Smith was nothing short of horrific, posting an .891 save percentage with a 5-8-1 record. Then, after losing four consecutive starts, he remembered who he really was, Schmidty. Since Schmidty’s return on March 17th, he’s 9-1-1 with a .941 save percentage. Feel free to read that again. NINE. FORTY. ONE. Let me hammer in how good that is. That is by far the best save percentage amongst goalies with at least five starts over that stretch. Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, who is a virtual lock for the Vezina, and a legit Hart candidate, has a .929 save percentage over that same stretch, despite facing over 50 fewer shots. Amongst qualified goalies in NHL history, no goalie has had a better save percentage than .941 over a full season.
Now, I know what you’re going to say, “these stats are cherry-picked” or “you’re just biased”. I would like to counter your points with one of my own. No one cares. Maybe they are cherry-picked and I may even be biased. But in all honesty, not a single person cares. The point is, Schmidty is probably the best goalie in the history of the NHL.
You may be asking, why only talk about this now, he’s been going off for over a month now? That is true, but Mike Smith has been good at points in the past, I still needed to confirm that this was indeed Schmidty, and last night I got the confirmation I needed. Down two in the dying minutes of the game, the Stars pulled their goalie. Schmidty is known to be one of the best puck-handling goalies in the league, sometimes to his detriment, but he has scored a goal in the past. Last night, he had no interest in dumping the puck off to a teammate, he was committed to scoring, and while it may not have happened, he certainly tried. This type of unwavering confidence is exactly what defines Schmidty. No other 40-year-old goalie has ever had such confidence, and it’s that confidence that has led to the Oilers insane tear over the last month or so. And maybe, just maybe, it will bring Edmonton back to the promised land.
For here on out, Mike Smith is gone, we do not speak of him. This is Schmidty’s net now.