Heck­uva win to start the sea­son. Now for the bad news ...

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES [email protected]­media.com @sun­ter­ryjones

Dave Tip­pett, 48 hours ear­lier, de­scribed him­self as a head coach who would al­most al­ways go back to a goal­tender who had recorded a shutout in his most re­cent game re­gard­less of the sit­u­a­tion.

So what kind of coach is he when his net­min­der steals a game to open the first sea­son with a new team for both the coach and the goal­tender who go back a long way to­gether?

On Wed­nes­day, Mike Smith ab­so­lutely stole a 3-2 win in the lid-lifter against the Canucks at Rogers Place as Van­cou­ver out­shot the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers 33-22 and out-chanced them by an even greater mar­gin.

It was a tough call whether to select Leon Drai­saitl with his goal and three-point night or Smith as the first star, but his team­mates gave Smith their sym­bolic mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met as the man of the match.

So does Tip­pett go back to his old Dal­las Stars and Ari­zona Coyotes goalie again Satur­day on Hockey Night In Canada against Todd Mclellan and the Los Angeles Kings?

“Well, he played well. He played re­ally well in­side the crease and out­side the crease. He had a re­ally good night,” said Tip­pett when I tossed out the ob­vi­ous ques­tion dur­ing an op­tional skate Thurs­day at Rogers Place.

“We left him off the ice (Thurs­day) and we’ll see where we are (Fri­day) and we’ll make a de­ci­sion from there.”

Too many times in the last two sea­sons, the Oil­ers man­aged to get big pro­duc­tion from Leon Drai­saitl and Con­nor Mc­david, only to have a soft goal on the first shot and a stinker or two high glove side later take the air out of this hockey team.

And no­body knows bet­ter than Tip­pett than when Smith gets it go­ing, he re­ally gets it go­ing.

That com­pli­cates the ques­tion.

And in this case it’s a com­pli­cated ques­tion.

There will be a temp­ta­tion in this sit­u­a­tion to de­liver a mes­sage to Mikko Kosk­i­nen that this is go­ing to be a twogoalie team and to give him the next game be­cause it’s his turn.

But it is ex­cep­tion­ally im­por­tant that this year’s Oil­ers get off to a good start from just about ev­ery an­gle you can this of, in­clud­ing the im­pend­ing end to a 548game sell­out streak and self-con­fi­dence and be­lief not only in the dress­ing room but through­out Ed­mon­ton where the Oil­ers have missed the play­offs 12 of the last 13 years.

The new head coach of the Oil­ers ba­si­cally said he went with Smith over the much higher salaried No. 1 from last year ba­si­cally be­cause he knew him from their time to­gether in Dal­las and Phoenix.

Tip­pett ob­vi­ously guessed right. But now what does he do? The be­lief is that the Oil­ers are go­ing to need solid sea­sons from both goal­tenders to make the play­offs. Does Tip­pett now need to find some faith in the six-foot­seven Finn, who was the lead­ing goal­tender in the KHL for five sea­sons be­fore he came to Ed­mon­ton, mak­ing the tran­si­tion to the NHL be­hind a highly sus­pect de­fence and the league’s worst penalty killing crew?

Or does he ride the hot hand with the goalie he knows and trusts?

“Both guys are go­ing to play, but we’ll see where it goes. We want to get them both play­ing early,” he said.

The thing here, to me, will be the same de­ci­sion in Game 2 as in Game 1. Tip­pett has that re­la­tion­ship with Smith.

“I had him in Dal­las as a rookie. He got traded at the dead­line one year when our staff was back in Dal­las. I was the guy who had to tell him he was traded to Tampa.

“I was also kind of be­hind get­ting him to Ari­zona when I went there. And we were to­gether for a long time in Ari­zona. So we’ve had a long re­la­tion­ship,” Tip­pett ex­panded and ex­pounded on the six-foot-five goal­tender that new GM Ken Hol­land also con­sulted be­fore bring­ing him here.

“He’s a phe­nom­e­nal ath­lete. He’s a com­peti­tor. And our first game was an ex­am­ple. He wanted to make sure he came out and made a state­ment in his first game.”

Smith, at 37, is an in­ter­est­ing study.

And if you’ve fol­lowed Smith’s his­tory, it re­ally is true that when he gets it go­ing, he re­ally gets it go­ing.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him on a run in Ari­zona to the con­fer­ence fi­nal. He was phe­nom­e­nal. He played a hard se­ries. It was a real phys­i­cal nasty se­ries against Chicago. And

Chicago is com­ing off win­ning the Cup the year be­fore.

“I re­mem­ber in the sixth game in Chicago and we were up 3-2 and had them on the ropes in the se­ries and they were com­ing with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane ev­ery sec­ond shift. They were com­ing.

“I re­mem­ber as­sis­tant coach John An­der­son walk­ing down to the end of the bench and said ‘Tip, I just wanted to let you know that the shots are 28-to-5.

“The score was 0-0. I said ‘John, I’m well aware of that. Smitty is play­ing well.’

“We ended up win­ning the game 3-0 or 4-0.

“He was phe­nom­e­nal. I’ve seen him play well at dif­fer­ent times when he’s had some strug­gles. He’s just a com­peti­tor. He’s a good guy in the locker room.”



Mike Smith han­dles the puck dur­ing his first reg­u­lar-sea­son game with the Oil­ers. Head coach Dave Tip­pett is fa­mil­iar with Smith dur­ing time spent to­gether with the Ari­zona Coyotes and Dal­las Stars.

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