Growing up, Mike Smith was no different than other young goaltenders, playing on streets or make-shift hockey rinks and imagining the opportunity to make one final save to secure victory.
Now, years later as a starter for the Tampa Bay Lightning, those opportunities can often come in the form of fan-favorite shootouts. So, it only stands to reason that with the game in the balance, Smith would relish these one-on-one confrontations.
“To be honest, I know the fans probably love them, but I don’t,” Smith said. “Your whole life you practice them, but now the outcome doesn’t always end up the way you imagined it.”
Smith and veteran Olaf Kolzig have had their fill of shootouts during this young season, but both acknowledge that despite the results, their mental and physical preparation remains the same each opportunity.
“In a shootout, [the shooter] has a lot more time to dictate speeds of play,” Kolzig said, “so the old adage goes, ‘Don’t fall for the first move.’ As a goaltender, it’s all about confidence, because the shooters know they have to be accurate and they are.”
Both Lightning goaltenders acknowledged there’s no real formula for success in these post-overtime confrontations. Neither watches film of opposing teams’ top scorers and they don’t attempt to remember a player’s best one-on-one move or even look for it during the shootout. Instead, they say success rests with relaxing mentally and preparing for any possible scenarios.
It’s a task that’s often easier said than accomplished as the Lightning’s 1-5 shootout record this season attests.
“The odds are always in the favor of the goaltender because of all the variables that can occur, like the puck hitting the post or rolling off a player’s stick” Kolzig said, “but these kids are coming up with nifty moves all the time.
“When you get to a shootout, you just have to expect the unexpected.”