57
Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

What to do with the goalies?

When a team has two goaltenders that are struggling, it’s not really as much a goaltending “controversy” as it is a straight up goaltending “problem”. Cam Talbot came into this season as a lock to be the Oilers number one goalie, but that title quickly evaporated as Talbot struggled and Mikko Koskinen began to surge.

Before Wednesday, Koskinen had started in four consecutive games for the Oilers, stopping 108 shots and allowing just six goals. He was brilliant and was honestly the biggest reason they grabbed six out of a potential eight points in that span.

Talbot got the start Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues and looked more like the Talbot we saw in 2016-17 than the goalie that has a sub .900 save percentage this season.

Koskinen is coming off a really solid stretch of hockey, although his last start did result in a loss, albeit a loss that you can’t really peg on him. Talbot, on the other hand, played fantastic in his last start but has barely seen any action over the past few weeks.

With a game tomorrow night against the Minnesota Wild followed by a massive divisional tilt against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, how should Ken Hitchcock handle the goalies for these starts? Here are some three lines of thinking when it comes to the Oilers goaltending controversy:

WIN AND YOU’RE IN

I believe this approach is the best way to create a true competition between two goaltenders. Cam Talbot started last game and stopped enough pucks for them to win the game, so why wouldn’t you throw him right back out there?

The downside to this approach is that if a goalie has a strong game but doesn’t get any offensive support, then is it really fair to punish him for that? You could say that’s exactly what happened in the loss to Dallas. Koskinen looked solid, but the Oilers didn’t have Connor McDavid in the lineup and couldn’t find the back of the net. Two of the goals that went in for just lucky bounces for the Stars as well, so you can’t say Mikko didn’t give the Oilers a chance to win that hockey game.

In principle, the idea of just rolling with the winning goalie makes sense, but there are some flaws that come with it.

MIKKO IS THE STARTER

Koskinen has started 12 games for the Oilers this season and posted a save percentage above .900 in seven of those starts. He’s only allowed more than three goals once and that was when he got the start against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a game which was the second half of a back-to-back.

His 2.23 GAA is second among NHL starters, only Pekka Rinne is better, while his 0.925 save percentage ranks ninth amongst qualified goaltenders. Not only is he posting great individual numbers, but he’s got an 8-3-1 record to go with it.

Another stat that favours Koskinen is high-danger save percentage. Even under Ken Hitchcock, the Oilers give up a good amount of high-danger looks and Koskinen has a high-danger save percentage of 0.844 while Talbots sits down at 0.814.

When Talbot slipped Koskinen stepped up and, to an extent, saved this teams season. Perhaps he deserves more respect than many, myself included, are giving him. Play him against Minnesota and if he delivers another solid performance, play him Sunday night against the Flames as well.

THE OILERS NEED CAM TALBOT

Mar 29, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) awaits the start of play against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

We all remember how well Cam Talbot played in 2016-17. He won them games down the stretch and was a big reason they came within a game of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

He struggled last year, and his doubters will be quick to point out that he’s only had one good season as an NHL starter. I don’t think that is true. His last season in New York he started over 36 games. While that isn’t a starter’s workload, he took over the crease when Henrik Lundqvist got hurt and played like a legitimate number one in that time.

His first year in Edmonton started slow, but by the end of the year he had started 56 games and posted a 0.917 save percentage and a 2.55 GAA. He’s proven that he can handle a starter’s workload on multiple occasions, which is more than Mikko Koskinen has done. That’s not a knock on the Finnish goaltender, it’s just a fact.

Some will say that if the Oilers want to make the playoffs, they’ll need both goalies playing extremely well all season, and I tend to agree with that. Despite his struggles, a lot of this seasons success still rides on Cam Talbot simply because Koskinen is still a little unpredictable. We haven’t seen him be an NHL starter for an entire season the way we’ve seen Talbot do it.

Allowing Talbot to get his confidence back is important and he’s coming off a start that can be seen as a good building block. Give him the start against Minnesota and if he plays good, keep running with him.

MY TAKE

I was not a fan of the Mikko Koskinen signing. You’d be hard pressed to find an Oilers fan who was. But he has proven me wrong thus far. While there are still moments where he looks shaky, he’s looked every bit like a legitimate number one goaltender. He probably deserves to get the start against Minnesota and it appears most Oilers fans would agree with me.

Still, there is a part of me that thinks that if the Oilers want to make the playoffs and go on a legitimate run, they’ll need Cam Talbot to play the way he did in 2016-17 and for that to happen, he needs to actually play.

So how would I handle the situation? I would give Koskinen the start Friday against the Wild and if he stands on his head and steals the game, then I suppose you would have to start him again on Sunday. If he comes in and has a decent game and they win, or if he struggles and they lose, then I would put Talbot between the pipes against Calgary. Send him the message that you still have faith in him and trust that he can win you big games.

I know lots of fans will disagree with that, but I suppose I’m more of a Talbot supporter than most. I think he still has the ability to be a legitimate number one goalie in this league.

What say you, Oilersnation? Give Koskinen both? Split them evenly? Win and you’re in? Is this Mikko’s crease? Let me know your thoughts, or just tell me how wrong I am!

    • Keg on Legs

      I remember years and years and years ago, I was playing Bantam AA in St Albert(Emanuel Viveros & Dale McFee were teammates), we were playing Stettler I believe and my partner and I were changing on the fly due to the fact that the puck was barely in our end, it wasn’t pretty 🙂

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Yes, and I remember a stint with Sather playing those two goalies one game on & one game off. They were that good.
      That’s healthy for the whole team as well as you aren’t telling the world that one goalie is better than the other. The competition should be against the other team, not within your own bench.

  • Datsyukian

    People tend to forget that Mikko was a starter in the KHL “on multiple occasions”. The KHL is a legit league with lots of skills, not just one for NHL semi-retirees and outcasts, although some North American commentators and a few of home-grown Russian armchair experts love to portray it as such.

  • BR

    Talbot vs Minnesota – He did enough to get another start. But also Calgary is a must win game for us at this stage of the season and so I’d be putting Koskinen in there even if Talbot stands on his head to show both that there is competition and they both need to keep performing.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Another stat to keep in mind.

    After the 2016 all star game, until the end of that season, Talbot led the NHL with a .920 sv%. On that crappy Oilers club, Talbot was the best goalie in the NHL in the 2nd half of the 15-16 season. So no, it’s not just “one good season”. It’s more than that.

    • OilersGM

      Stop living in the past, Talbot has played brutal this year. One win in the past 7 starts just not good enough, I’m sure he will play better than he has but he has to earn the net back and not just have it handed to him. Talbot still hasn’t figured out how not drop to his knees so early. Koskinen deserves more respect and the next start.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Change the goalie coach, Schwartz doesnt see Talbot going down early as an issue, even though the fans and opposing teams see it and are exploiting it

        • Glencontrolurstik

          To be fair “Eakins Hair”, Talbot only goes down early at the beginning of the games when he’s not quite warmed up. I’ve noticed that when it gets to him & he can’t get out of his funk it lasts all game.
          When he does come out of it, (like last game, down 2 goals where he went down early), he comes out of his crease & plays more aggressive. He is way more effective when he plays this way with confidence.
          Notice when he’s on, he plays at the top of his crease, pokechecks, deflects rebounds off blocker & legs to waiting defense on the fly… But you are right, if he stays back in the net & goes down on every shot he’s done… If I’m the coach & see this, I pull him for Koskinen… Talbot is NOT Dominec Hasek & shouldn’t pretend he is.

      • YFC Prez

        Koskinen does the same thing, he’s just 14 feet tall so I’m not too sure it has the same effect. It’s strange having 2 goalies who have nearly identical bad habits

        • Marcus

          The shootout goal St Louis scored had Talbot on his feet, square to the shooter, and still got beat top corner blocker side.

          Kosko just looks better and more confident between the pipes right now. I like that high danger save stat too which favours Mikko.

      • btrain

        I would say stop living in a vacuum. I think its important, as much as it is hard to remove the emotion and consider the disproportionate exposure you have to the team you cheer for, to look at what is a reasonable fluctuation in performance for an NHL starting goaltender. I am not saying Talbot has not struggled, as he has, and its been about a season worth of starts over the last couple years that he has been disappointing. However, consider the following stats from 17/18 season down:
        Rinne: ..927; .918; .908; .902; .910; .923; .930; .911; .917 (current season .930)
        Price: .900; .923; .934; .933; .927; .905; .916; .923; .912 (current season .900)
        Bobrovski: .921; .931; .908; .918; .923; .932; .899 (current season .901)
        Quick: .921; .917; .918; .918; .915; .902; .929; .918; .907; .914 (current .884)
        Holtby: .907; .925; .922; .923; .915; .920 (current .907)
        Fleury; Has been consistent most of his career but has .909; .905; . 906; and .898 seasons.

        Some honorable mentions of newish starting tenders putting up tough 18/19 seasons thus far are Murray, Rask, Jones, and Hellebuyck.

        The list of starting tenders above is telling. It paints a picture that even some of the very best goaltenders in the game, over the last decade, have more than one blemished season in their careers (while most also played on strong teams). Rinne is a particularly good example as he put three consecutive subpar seasons together before rebounding to being one of the best in the game again.
        Talbot is a far cry from being considered one of the best. However, he is still within what can be considered a normal range of struggle, given the strong years he has had. If you were to hold starting tenders in the NHL to their down years as their new benchmark, I believe there would be very few goalies left in this league Oiler fans would unanimously be satisfied with over a career with the team. Until/if the team is capable of bailing their goaltender out as much as the other way around, I fear this will continue to be the case.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Right now Koskinen is in the drivers seat as far as the goalies go. If I am the Oilers I bring in another Goalies coach, Schwartz isnt getting it done in the NHL or WHL where both teams are having goalie issues. Lets say the Oilers sdidnt want to make a Golaies coach change, I would bring in a proven NHL goalie coach and have him work with Talbot, to see if you can fix the holes in his play and to get him playing better.

    Talbot is in the last year of his contract and the Oilers need to figure out what to do with him, sign him, trade him or let him walk. I dont see them letting him walk, they would rather get something for Talbot, but his trade value is low right now, if they brought in a goalie coach to see if Talbots play can be fixed, they would be able to boost his trade value if he was playing better and they could see if they still want to sign him or not. If Chia trades Talbot and talbot goes and works with another goalie coach who does wonders for his game, that is not going to look good to the fans or the team. They need to see what they can do to fix Talbot and then decided what to do with him

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      Yup, if I didnt think Koskinen would be worn down I would play him both games, but he’s played quite a bit the last while so I say save him for the flames

  • Cleetus

    I say start Talbot in the first period, Koskinen in the second period, then whoever plays best gets to start the third. I don’t see what could go wrong with this plan. Frankly, I don’t see why more teams don’t do this. 🤡

  • Bills Bills

    Win and your in. Talbot let in a couple soft goals in that first period and then locked it down. Honestly I had that here we go again feeling when the second shot went in. I am sure the players felt the same way but they battled back. Gutsy and a little lucky on that win but the team deserved it.

    I have to admit that I didn’t expect it though. The team is hopefully turning a corner on inconsistent play and starting to believe they can win. Regardless of who’s in net.

    • Serious Gord

      Yes platooning is the way to go. I’m pretty confident that’s what Hitchcock is going to do: Talbot again tomorrow and again until he loses then back to kosk.

    • Hemmercules

      I thought that second goal was pretty terrible. How does a goalie let themselves get that out of position when everyone on the ice is in their zone? Talbot was outside of the crease and it was an open net for the taking. I still say you keep going with Koskinen but maybe its worth going with Talbot for the Minnesota game. If Talbot has a bad game then it should be clear they need to ride Koskinen for a while.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Holy crap, how do you get a trash-it with that great comment Bills. I concur about the “here we go again”. But there is something to be said for the comeback & it’s all positive…

  • CMG30

    Win and you’re in essentially. Though, I won’t hold it against a coach if he makes allowances for a good performance in net spoiled by a no-show a little ways up the ice. In general we don’t have time for a goalie to ‘find his game’. We need solid ‘tending every night.

    Count me as another one who was against the Koskinen signing. Now I’m glad he’s doing well. I am ,however, still wary about how much cap is being devoted to the crease. This situation cannot carry into next season.

    • Bills Bills

      I would say that 6 or 6.5 for two goaltenders is probably close to league average. How it is deployed is a little unorthodox but goaltending seems to be the least of our cap issues.

  • camdog

    Goalies are like voodoo as Lowetide would say. Win and your in until a back to back. It’s fair to both. If they’ve both have confidence they’ll feed off of it. A KHL schedule isn’t same as NHL schedule. The NHL schedule is tough and demanding. Relying on one goalie doesn’t work well.

  • 18% body fat

    Talbot started with the net, and didnt do anything with it. Koskinen played a game and did well. Talbot got the net back and did nothing with it. Koskinen played well and this time kept the net.

    The net is koskinens, one good game from Talbot should not get it back. He has to win it back from Koskinen by playing more than one good game and when it is his turn to play. Make him hungry dont feed him the feast again from one good showing.

    Reverse the rolls, would koskinen get the net this quick after one good game. And i get it Talbot was your pegged starter and koskinen wasnt. But that is a much bigger issue.

    Koskinen is your starter currently. Play talbot as the back up, if he continues to play strong and koskinen falters than Talbot can take the job back. that is what Miko did.

  • TKB2677

    The Oilers need both goalies playing well. I heard Brian Burke on Stauffer’s show say that in the west, you need 2 goalies because the travel sucks. He’s right, they do need 2 goalies playing well. So the Oilers need Talbot to round into form. I was a Talbot fan. I thought he would for sure have a bounce back year this season coming off a brutal year in a contract year. But when it comes to the Wild game, what exactly has Talbot done to deserve this start? He played well last game or more correctly, played like an NHL goalie. GREAT!!

    Before last game, he was credited with losing his last 5 startsin a row and actually if you look at his stats, it should have been lost his last 6 games in a row. He was the starter for the Colorado game on Nov 11 where he only played 25 mins, giving up 3 goals and got YANKED. Koskinen came in, played the remaining 35 mins, gave up 1 goal. The Oilers lost 4-1 and because Koskinen played more than half the game, he was unfairly credited with the loss. Excluding Tuesday’s game, in Talbot’s 6 straight losses, he had .900, .806, .800, .906, .826, .857 save percentage. If Talbot wasn’t their previous starter and had a 4.2 mill contract and he was a young back up goalie making league minimum, he’d be in the minors because of those numbers.

    Overall, Talbot is 6-9,(should be 6-10) has a .892% and a 3.19 GA. Koskinen is 8-3(should be 8-2), .925% and a 2.23 GA, plus 2 shut outs. So 33 points better and almost a full goal a game better than Talbot. What message do you send Koskinen or YOUR TEAM if you start Talbot over Koskinen when 1 goalies has been superior and it’s not close.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    It seems to me that Talbot was way better after Christmas last year. Does anyone have those stats?I would not play the goalies based purely on whose winning. And although probably effective competition for the net is probably not the best for creating a cohesive “team” environment? I would play them solely based on the competition & history.
    Talbot & Koskinen have different styles & this could prove effective against different styles of offense. Also if either goalie develops a winning record against certain teams, why would you play the other one…?

  • yahsper

    Win you’re in. Lose and your out. If a goalie goes on a run keep him in till he loses then switch. Should keep a healthy rivalry going. Cam seems engaged on the bench and looks to be a supportive teammate which is great to see. We need both goalies firing on all cylinders.

  • Talbot deserves tonight’s start versus the Wild. Keep his good momentum. But Koskinen starts versus Flames.

    Another funny stat I recall about Talbot was that his SV% is better when he gets over 30 shots on him. I don’t know what his stat is on number of goals allowed on the first X number of shots in a game, but I bet it’s high comparatively to other goalies.

    • Rufio Barcoli

      Every goalies SV% gets better when he gets 30+ shots on them, even more better when they get 40+ shots.
      It’s math.
      Where Talbot’s SV% and game is horrible is in the first 10-15 shots.