As Mike Smith and Jonathan Quick prepare to go head-to-head in opposite nets in the NHL’s Western Conference Finals, the two share a common link to ECHL history.
Only 10 goaltenders in the league’s 24-year history have scored a goal during a game. Smith and Quick are two of those goaltenders, and each scored during their first professional win, and in the process, earned shutouts as well.
The odds of a goaltender scoring a goal are slim. The odds of scoring a goal and recording a shutout while earning your first professional win are much longer. The odds of two goalies doing it in the same league are astronomical.
Smith made his first professional appearance with the Lexington Men O’ War on Oct. 26, 2002,and picked up not only his first win and his first shutout, but also became the sixth ECHL goaltender at the time to score a goal in a 2-0 win over Dayton.
With Lexington leading 1-0 late in the third period, Dayton dumped the puck behind the net where Smith gained control and flipped it out of the zone. The puck hit in the center face-off circle and then slid untouched into the empty net at 19:04. The goal by the then 20-year-old Smith, who is the youngest goaltender ever to score a goal in a professional game, was featured on ESPN’s NHL 2Night.
“It was extremely exciting for us as a team and certainly an auspicious start to his professional career,” said Jim Wiley, who was the Men O’ War’s head coach in 2002-03.
It was the springboard to a standout rookie season for Smith, who finished fourth in the league with a 2.55 goals-against average, while also seeing action in 11 games with the American Hockey League’s Utah Grizzlies.
“Mike was observed to be a talent with needed seasoning (playing time),” Wiley said. “The care taken by the Dallas Stars organization with his development was obvious by the numerous call-ups to Utah for him to be a part of the planned goaltending events throughout the season for their minor league goaltenders. This was unique but, certainly well planned.
“He was athletic and sound as it relates to his posture and movements within the goal,” he continued. “There was concern about his extra handling of the puck but, tolerated because he was very good at it. I can remember stating to the powers that be in Dallas that this young man was a keeper and thought he was destined for the NHL.”
A fifth-round selection (161st overall) by the Dallas Stars in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Smith played exclusively in the AHL with Utah, Houston and Iowa from 2003-06 before making his long-awaited National Hockey League debut on Oct. 21, 2006. Following the theme set nearly four years earlier in his first ECHL start, Smith turned aside all 22 shots he faced to record a shutout in the Stars 4-0 win at Phoenix. He went 12-5-2 with three shutouts, a 2.23 goals-against average and a save percentage of .912 in 23 appearances with Dallas as a rookie, on his way to earning a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team.
Smith joined the Coyotes as a free agent last summer, and enjoyed his best season in the NHL, appearing in 67 games and posting a record of 38-18-10 with eight shutouts, a 2.21 goals-against average and a save percentage of .930.
While Quick did not match Smith’s feat of scoring a goal and posting a shutout in his professional debut, he came awfully close. After suffering a 3-2 loss to Trenton in his first pro start on Oct. 19, 2007 with the Reading Royals, Quick notched his first win and shutout, while also tallying a goal, in the Royals’ 3-0 win at Pensacola on Oct. 24, 2007. The goal came at 19:25 of the third period when the puck rolled the length of the ice and into the Pensacola net which was empty because goaltender Mike Brodeur had been pulled for an extra attacker. Quick was the last player to touch the puck, so he was credited with the unassisted goal.
"Our first game of the year was against Trenton," said Karl Taylor, Reading’s coach in 2006-07. "We lost on a goal late, a little short-side goal that I still remember but he probably doesn’t. We had a discussion about it afterward. We started the season on a seven-game road trip, so we bussed from Trenton to Florida. We played Pensacola and Jonathan played again. We won 3-0, so he got his first win, got a shutout and got his first goal in the same game. Not a lot of people can say that.
"Initially, everyone’s disappointed when they get set down, whether it’s from the NHL to the AHL or whatever," Taylor continued. "But he was very coachable and very receptive and very open to what I wanted from him and expected of him. He could have started at the AHL level, but the Kings wanted Jonathan to play a high volume of games and that’s what he got to do."
Quick finished his rookie season 14th in the ECHL with a 2.79 goals-against average and was tied for sixth with 23 wins. Selected in the third round (72nd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Quick made his NHL debut with the Kings on Dec. 6, 2007, turning aside 15 shots in an 8-2 win against Buffalo.
Quick, who is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender, led the NHL this season with 10 shutouts, while finishing second with a 1.95 goals-against average and fifth with a .929 save percentage. During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has gone 8-1, allowing just 14 goals in nine appearances, as he has helped lead the Kings to their first trip to the Conference Finals since 1993.
Taylor knew from the start that the Milford, Conn. native would experience success at the NHL level.
"He was very athletically gifted and his compete level was always off the charts," Taylor said. "His teammates always played incredibly hard for him because he never quit on a puck in games or practices."