The book is out on Edmonton Oilers’ goaltender Mikko Koskinen, and it reads like a furniture mover’s nightmare – everything goes upstairs. It was obvious on Sunday the Vegas Golden Knights had been reading up on the big Finn chapter and verse as they scored six goals on 34 shots on the way to a 6-3 win.
Despite being six-foot-seven, Koskinen has made a troubling habit of playing small in the 46 appearances he’s made this season. If you shoot high on him, particularly on the glove side, you’ve got a pretty good chance of finding twine — like Vegas forwards Cody Eakin and Jonathan Marchessault did. At times, it seems like Koskinen might as well be wearing an oven mitt on that less-than-stellar catching hand of his.
While picking on Koskinen for one performance that wasn’t close to being up to par is low-hanging fruit – he’s had some very good moments in going 8-4-2 since the Oilers traded Cam Talbot and tagged Koskinen as their man – the reality is that once the book is out on you, it’s must-read material for every shooter in the league.
The problem moving forward for Koskinen, who the Oilers have committed to by way of a three-year-contract worth $13.5 million thanks to Pete Chiarelli and whoever else thought signing him in January was a good idea, is shooters are going to keep chucking the rubber bar-down until the book changes. Can Koskinen, 30, and goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz re-write that book?
UP AND DOWN
All told, Koskinen is 22-17-4 with a 2.85 goals-against average and a save-percentage of .909 (he’s .915 at even strength and .862 shorthanded). That .909 puts him 18th among 27 goaltenders who have played 40-or-more games, and there’s been too many swings in performance for my liking. Koskinen can be ridiculously good one night, sieve-like the next.
Just looking at the 14 games since Talbot was dealt to Philadelphia, Koskinen has made five appearances where he finished under .900 in save-percentage. In the nine other games during the stretch, he’s been .920 or better (.940 or better in six of those). Save percentage isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to assessing goaltenders and you can certainly dig deeper, but my eyes tell me that there’s too much of a gap between Koskinen’s best and worst.
We saw that in Koskinen Sunday. Aside from the top-cheese stuff from Eakin and Marchessault, the 4-2 goal by Marchessault and the 6-3 goal by Alex Tuch to rub it in when the game was decided were both soft.Teams don’t need .930, which Koskinen is clearly capable of, from their stoppers to win games, but you can’t win if you’re under .900. Coaches love consistency and lack of same is what got Talbot sent down the road.
I’m not of the mind that Koskinen can’t tighten up the swings between his best performances and ones like we saw against the Golden Knights, but it’s going to take a lot of work with Schwartz or whoever is working with Edmonton’s goaltenders down the road. And it’ll have to happen with every shooter knowing high-glove is where the money is until Koskinen proves otherwise.
THE WAY I SEE IT
I’ve got no issue with Koskinen signing the contract Chiarelli and the Oilers put in front of him when they decided he was a better option than Talbot. You’d have signed it. I’d have signed it. The problem with the contract, as many people noted when the ink was done, was the timing. There was no need to commit to Koskinen then. Chiarelli jumped the gun.
On some nights, Koskinen looks like he’ll be worth every dime of that deal. On others, we get what we saw Sunday in Sin City. Far better that the Oilers took a longer look at Koskinen, his body of work for an entire season, before making a three-year commitment. As it stands, the goaltending situation going into the off-season remains up in air, but now there’s $13.5 million attached to that question mark.