Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

We needed a save…

With a roster as flawed as the one coach Ken Hitchcock is trying to coax into the playoffs, there’s plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the shortcomings that have the Edmonton Oilers spinning their wheels as they try to stay in post-season contention. That has been obvious for months.

There wasn’t, however, any doubt where Hitchcock was looking after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens Sunday after watching his team blow a third-period lead and a precious point, just as they did in a 5-4 OT loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their first game back after the all-star break. That would be you, Mikko Koskinen.

“We played a perfect third period. It’s the best we’ve played on the road all year,” said an obviously frustrated Hitchcock, who got two pretty solid efforts from his team on the weekend but just two of four available points. “We did everything we needed to do. We’ve got to have a save.

“We had them frustrated. They couldn’t get through the neutral zone. We were turning pucks over and creating scoring chances. We played one helluva third period. That’s the best I’ve seen a team play for a long time. We had perfect positioning . . . our checking was unbelievable. We did a helluva job, but, like I said, we’ve got to have a save there.”

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Dec 13, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock talks to his players during a time against the Winnipeg Jets in the third period Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

As slim as the Oilers playoff hopes are with 30 games remaining, they’ll turn to none with any more displays like the one Koskinen turned in Sunday. The towering Finn allowed four goals on 27 shots, most notably one he’d like to have back on a wraparound and on the 3-3 goal by Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Koskinen lost sight of the puck and then wasn’t squared up at the post when Kotkaniemi lifted it over him from in tight.

Again, there’s plenty of blame to go around – the abysmal penalty killing against the Flyers in Philadelphia the day before sticks out like a sore thumb – but there’s no question the Oilers haven’t been getting good enough goaltending when they need it most from Koskinen or Cam Talbot.

Adding to the frustration for fans is the three-year contract extension worth $13.5 million Koskinen got from outgoing GM Peter Chiarelli. The timing of the deal seemed bizarre at best and that’s been compounded by Koskinen’s struggles of late. In his last five appearances, he’s allowed 17 goals on 128 shots with save percentages of .852, .889. .833, .893 and .909.

Through 29 games with the Oilers, Koskinen is 14-11-2 with a save percentage of .908 and a goals-against average of 2.84. It that good enough for a stopper signed for the next three years? Talbot has been worse than that. In his last five games, Talbot has allowed 18 goals on 130 shots, going .872, .800. .897, .900 and .765. He’s 9-13-3 and .893.

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Koskinen has had ridiculously hot stretches this season, but there’s also been times when he’s struggled. While the numbers don’t fall solely on the shoulders of any goaltender, I don’t think there’s much debate about that. Big picture, I’m not convinced Koskinen is the goaltender this team can lean on moving forward.

As for Talbot, he’s almost certainly headed down the road at some point even if the Oilers have said they’d be interested in re-signing him. Nothing says “go away” like committing term and money to another goaltender with such a short track record and then offering back-up money as a consolation prize to a guy who has been your starter, like Talbot.

Here and now, the Oilers need almost everything to go right to have any real chance at a playoff spot, and that includes getting some timely goaltending the rest of the way. Koskinen and Talbot haven’t been close to good enough often enough. Without that, getting balanced scoring, better special teams, the return of Oscar Klefbom and blah, blah, blah aren’t going to matter.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Derian Hatcher

    ” The timing of the deal seemed bizarre at best and that’s been compounded by Koskinen’s struggles of late.”

    I believe BN used the tern “we” when discussing the extension (correct me if I’m wrong), So on that premise….having BN (and his vast hockey IQ) in charge of finding a new GM is as laughable as the Dallas Eakins era.

    What has to happen for the brain dead Oiler owner & execs to realize that?

    I’m no fan of the Leafs, but it would appear they hired KNOWLEDGEABLE hockey people to evaluate players and build skill and talent. Meanwhile, the Oilers continue to wander in the desert drinking red wine.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I was super pissed as Koskinen’s blunder yesterday. As a goalie myself, I hat when goalies make stupid plays like that. My philosophy is that I’d you stay in the crease, chances are nothing bad is going to happen. And that doesn’t mean Cam has made blunders either. Remember opening day? If it’s icing, why is he going out of the net to play the puck? And if he’s going to play the puck, why does he do it when he has 0 defence support. Remember last year vs Florida? He gambled to beat (was it Huberdeau?) to the puck and lost that race. I hate when goalies do stupid things, and Koskinen cost us the game with that misplay. He should’ve let it go around, or used his stick to bump it into the corner.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Kostkinen is the best goaltender the Oilers have. They could not take the chance heading to free agency (july 1st) without a goaltender under contract. July 1st would have been a bidding war with other teams.

  • camdog

    Rumour was Jari Kurri recommended Koskinen to the Oilers. Bill Scott negotiates contracts. I don’t know if PC had much involvement in bringing Koskinen to Edmonton, unless he’s connected to Jari… As Nicholson said it was agreed by all in the brain trust to give the contract, but the Old Boys aren’t “involved”… lol

  • ed from edmonton

    Bob Nich stated that the extension for Koskinnen was not due to PC acting alone but a consensus of the group. Makes me think the first order of business for the new GM is to “change the culture”. But Bob Nich said the new GM must fit into the culture, makes me worried it will be more of the same.

    Agree that goaltending is becoming one of their biggest issues. When was the last time the Oil had the best goaltender in a game?

  • DannyGallivan

    The save is not the issue. We have lost 5 consecutive games mostly against mediocre teams. We have changed our coach and GM and have had the all-star break to “commit to winning”. WE DON’T HAVE THE PLAYERS TO WIN AND WE HAVE NO CAP ROOM!

    Even if we make the playoffs, which is unlikely, how far will we go with 3 goal scorers. Clean out the deadwood. Trade bait is high as we approach the deadline.
    Klef, Larsson, Nurse, McJesus, RNH and Drai are untouchable. The trade deadline is a good opportunity to maximize value on some of these players in hopes of getting to or going deeper into the playoffs. Another burned year but we are NOT COMPETITIVE.

    I love the Oil but this team was &***ed when Chia sold low and bought high.

    Comment the “Trash Its” but it is the truth.

    • Total Points

      The only untouchable is McDavid. For example, I would trade Nuge or a #1 defenseman (like Burns, etc) in a minute.

      Also Klef, Larsson and Nurse would be traded for right package.

      Things need to change

      • Big Nuggets

        If the right deal is out there sure, but I cringe when I read the ‘things need to change’ comments about the actual good players we have. It’s not their fault the roster is flawed. We should find players to support them instead of trading them away. Trading them away was Chiarelli’s strategy.

    • Randomfan

      Again…you make too much sense. Its not regarded highly in oilersville. This team is in a deep shyt and they will need a lot more shovels to dig themselves out of this.

      All this talk about the playoffs drive me nuts. This team cant even beat the bottom feeders on most nights and here they want to make playoffs and go against flames or sharks in first round. Like seriosuly? I know pot is legal but still. Cmon man.

      And as for the trade who wants to have the guys that cant do anything? Who in their right mind would take players we are trying to get rid of? There is only one PC in this league and now he is gone. So we are stuck till their contracts run out.

      Bottom line: this team is doomed. I dont care what someone says. Outside of mcdavid, yes only mcdavid, you just dont know what you gona get from each player every game.

      • serlio

        If chia traded for these players theirs gotta be another gm who ll take em. We cant have hired the absolute worst gm in the league right guys… guys? Also ive stopped playing too much attention to the oilers recently (im not a masochist) but pls tell me our pro scouts have been fired too. The pro talent evaluation on this team has been god aweful and theirs no way thats all on chia

    • Oil-In-the-Blood

      Great comment!! BOTTOMLINE we dont have the horses… PC sold high skill for low or eventually buried AHLers and also stole 2 young players from the reinhart deal from this team…nothing more needs to be said. Now its the goalies? pk? before the coaching, line blending. WE DONT HAVE THE HORSE. easy.

  • Leaky37

    Hey hold on a minute. Hitch said he knew what was wrong, can fix it and fix it fast. If PK and PP performance are about coaching the Hitch better get busy. 4 goals against on the PK is horrendous. Hitch get to work.

  • Spydyr

    Looking at the big picture.

    The timing is perfect for the OBC on this deal. If Koskinen fails they blame Chiarelli if Koskinen plays well for a few years they take the credit.

  • That's My Point

    Oilers are on pace for 80 points this season, Flames are on pace for 113 points with ZERO 1st overall picks.
    Oilers have won 44% of their games.
    Got to make some MAJOR CHANGES this off-season, starting with BETTER drafting.

  • That's My Point

    If playoffs started today:
    Habs @ Leafs
    Canucks @ Flames
    Wild @ Jets
    AND Caps play the Pens AGAIN (identical records currently)
    Oilers on pace to get TWO more points than previous season: up to 80 from 78.

  • hagar

    If the entire team could figure out how to play consistantly day in and out things wouldnt be as bad as they seem. Lots of teams have shortcomings and can still “effort” their way into contention.
    Unfortunately the old boys not only affect the choices the team makes in trades and decisions, their mere existance on the team sets the tone for the players.
    You can even see it in the way the oilers hand out contracts. Just show a flash of potential, and you get signed long term with no move clauses and can then go back to playing when you feel like it.
    The team is built on unaccountability.. While most sports teams are built on effort and will to succeed, the backbone of the oilers structure is job security and getting though another season. Constant kicking of the can down the road without ever picking it up.
    You simply cant have bad goalie performances like you can poor player performances. There are no less than 15 people on a given night not playing as well as possible while either of the goalies struggle. The goalies just cant get away with it like the others can when they decide to take the night off.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Why does Dustin Schwartz still have a job here? He should have been gone last year.Talbot is plagued by the same issues as last year goes down to early,stays down too long. Now look at Koskinen, going down to early staying down too long and making himself to small in his crouch. Brossoit goes to the Jets and their staff realizes he has developed some bad habits works with their goalie coach and is sitting at 10 and 2 record, and Jets commentators say on telecast how much better he has been since he changed his habits. Schwartz need to go back to working with the Oil Kings, the Oilers need to hire a proven NHL goalie coach

  • Heschultzhescores

    I agree they did have a great 3rd period, had Kosk held that puck it might have been different…big might! There was still lots of time left and we know Montreal would have pushed harder for the tying goal, and probably got it as most teams do against us. The problem is not how we played in the 3rd, it’s how we play when we have the lead. Scared AS F.

  • Oil-In-the-Blood

    Depth boys and girls, depth. We have some definite talent and some good pieces but secondary is lacking. This team as is even if playing well won’t win much, be in games, sure wins will be tough sled. Now with a healthy klef and an ok sekera (he will take a while or maybe never to get back to 100% what he was) we will be better maybe by quite a bit but its the lack of depth that crushes us. I like the farm now and they will come eventually but BETTER decisions needed and PLEASE a few trade wins. PC is the worst trader in history, doesnt value skill enough imo, track record shows it. Did Chicago trade the douche Kane when he had all his troubles, no!!! too talented and they knew it.

  • Heschultzhescores

    I know this sounds overly simple….but it’s all about confidence and lack there of. When a team is confident they feel they can’t lose, and vice versa. The team is way too fragile and afraid to make a mistake. Telling Kosk we need a save there. You think he doesn’t know that and didn’t try? Like how stupid is that? All it accomplishes is to make the guy more up tight. We all need to relax a little and let the guys play, me included.

  • Heschultzhescores

    I think that’s the ONE thing we have not ALL tried. Just shutting up, and letting the guys try to work things out without the added pressure of how much we all say they suck. Media, fans, coaches, everyone. It’s time to get behind the team and be there with positive energy instead of always trashing our guys. It has an impact! We’ve heard it over and over from guys who leave here and produce better elsewhere. I’d love to see us all give it a try. What have we got to lose? If you’re on board the and Bung says, like this post. Let’s show our boys we are still behind them.

      • Gravis82

        I agree. I wanted the media to be harder on management from the very first trade. Most however, did not start piling on until they knew our GM was on the out’s….oh boy, and then the pitchforks came out, did they ever. For all of, what, 2 weeks? Yet, actual fans and unassociated bloggers who don’t depend on access to the press room for their job were on Chia since at the latest, the Hall trade. I give props to Gregor for criticizing that trade from the start actually.

        The fans pay all of the bills, the tickets the merch and Bobby the Nik’s burger fees. We also pay for your salary with the clicks. Even fans that don’t go to the games pay for that arena with tax dollars.

        This is more aimed at the MSM reporters, to which I put ON writers somewhere in a grey area….

        No more softball questions.

  • Stickhandler

    Kostiken will be a crushed soul by seasons end, which will be reg season for the oil. only thing he will cheerful about is that huge contract for doing absolutely nada to prove it was warranted. Don’t worry, Your Calgary Flames welcome you to the playoff party down South. Draft party theme suggestion: sparkles and muffins.

  • slats-west

    This is what you get when:

    – you have dman 5 thru 7 playing 2 thru 4 spots and having to push guys to 28 and 30 mins per night. In the third period they make mistakes.
    – these two goalies need to make 1-2 more saves per game. That’s it. not .890 but more like .915 -.920. They HAVE to be better.
    – and finally there is about 5-6 players who are playing for contracts yet we do not see the effort from them. I wonder why? Some may be out of the league and this last 30 G may be it for them…….. BE BETTER or BE GONE!

  • Rossonero4ever

    How about playing like a team with a system? How about playing with some brains on the penalty kill and taking away the Weber one timer from the point and forcing others to beat you? Both Talbot and Koskinen in different environments would most likely fair better…

  • Nanook

    this is pathetic. how do you take an nhl calliber goalie and turn him into a whl caliber one? give him a washed out whl goalie coach to train from….. at what point to these clowns in the fron office point at the coaching staff for goalies continually getting worse the longer they are here, only to become great again when when given real coaching.

    im sure hes a nice guy, but at what point does the organization look to this as possibly being the problem? the ineptitude of this management has me picking the history channel over an oilers game already. poor connor, I wouldn’t blame him if he did ask for a trade, even though I know he wont, but how could you blame him the way this team is run