May 25, 2024

Trailing 2-1, Edmonton Oilers facing goaltender decision


The decision to pull goaltender Stuart Skinner after the second period of a 4-3 loss Sunday to the Vancouver Canucks has left the Edmonton Oilers facing questions about their goaltending for a second straight postseason.

Skinner, who has started every game during these playoffs, was replaced by Calvin Pickard to begin the third period. Skinner was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots in a Game 3 that saw the Canucks take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

“Yes, we need more saves,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. “Tonight, obviously, I felt like that with Picks going in the third period but defense along with goaltending is very important to winning hockey games. Especially in the long term. Yeah, it’s got to be better.”

Knoblauch when asked about how Skinner was responding to the pressure of this postseason, said that Game 3 was a performance that he would like to have back.

“We’ll see what he’s got in the future,” Knoblauch said. “Whether that’s Game 4 or Game 5 or whatever it is. We’ll be seeing Stu again and have no doubt he’ll respond and play well.”

As a rookie last season, Skinner emerged as the No. 1 goaltender for his hometown team by winning 29 games and finishing with a .914 save percentage. His postseason wasn’t quite as smooth. He finished 5-6 with a 3.68 goals-against average and a .883 save percentage.

Skinner was pulled four times during the Oilers’ 12 playoff games with three of those early exits coming in a second-round series loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.

Following a rocky start, the Oilers moved on from coach Jay Woodcroft and hired Knoblauch. His hiring led to a resurgence with Skinner being one of the primarily beneficiaries. He would win 36 games while posting a 2.62 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 57 starts.

The Oilers advanced to the second round by beating the Los Angeles Kings in the first round for a third straight season. Skinner finished with a 2.57 goals-against average in an opening-round series that saw him do everything from record a shutout in Game 4 to allowing four goals in consecutive games to open the series.

Even with the Canucks averaging 19 shots per game against the Oilers, they have scored more than three goals in each contest. It’s left Skinner with a 4.63 goals-against average and a .790 save percentage after Game 3.

Knoblauch not committing to a Game 4 starter in his post-game remarks leaves questions about who could get the net as the Oilers attempt to even the series when it resumes Tuesday.

Pickard, who went 12-7-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in the regular season, hadn’t appeared in a postseason game until Sunday. He finished three saves in the third period.

There’s also Jack Campbell.

Campbell joined the Oilers in free agency before the 2022-23 season on a five-year deal worth $5 million annually. He struggled to find consistency during his first campaign which led to him backing up Skinner in the second half of the season and in the playoffs. While Campbell stopped 49 of the 51 shots he faced in relief of Skinner last postseason, he never started for the Oilers.

This season saw Campbell begin 1-4 with a 4.50 goals-against average and a .873 save percentage. It led to the Oilers promoting Pickard from their AHL affiliate with Campbell going the other way. Campbell went 18-13-1 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .918 for the Bakersfield Condors in the regular season but only had one postseason performance, a game that saw him allow five goals on 35 shots.



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