Mikko Koskinen has allowed some goals on his glove hand side. Some have looked stoppable, no question, but he’s also made many great saves, and while he isn’t Andrei Vasilevskiy, he isn’t near the bottom of the NHL goalie tree either. He is pretty much right around average. Ideally, he will need to improve his glove hand, but I feel often when it comes to instant analysis we focus ten times more on what a player doesn’t do compared to what he does well.
Koskinen’s glove is a weakness. It will need to improve, but shooters are better now than the past decade, likely due to having a skills coach in the summer, and we are seeing more goals across the league. Koskinen is not the only goalie getting beat cleanly now and again.
1. His .909sv% is tied for 19th among the 29 goalies who have made at least 35 starts. Koskinen is tied with Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist. Only eleven goalies currently have a .915sv% or better. The increased offence means sv% is down across the league and this season .910sv% is what the average starting goalie is posting. David Rittich, Carter Hutton, Connor Hellebuyck and Semyon Varlamov all sit at .910 and tied for 15th.
2. Look at four of the top-eight teams in the NHL standings. Calgary is second in the NHL with Rittich and Mike Smith (.896sv%) in goal. Their combined SV% is .903. The San Jose Sharks are fourth overall and Martin Jones has an .899sv% in 55 starts. Their team SV% is .896%. Washington is seventh overall with Holtby and his .909sv%. Their backup, Pheonix Copley has a .904% in 21 starts. The Jets are eighth overall with Hellebuyck and his .910sv% in 54 starts. Backup Laurent Brossoit has a .929sv% in 17 games, but their starter’s SV% is virtually the same as Koskinen’s.
3. Piling on Koskinen like he is the reason the Oilers can’t win, or won’t next season, is different than simply saying it is a concern. Make no mistake though, the team in front of him needs to improve. They had four glaring turnovers in the game against Vegas on Sunday that led directly to goals. Koskinen will need to improve his glove hand, but if the team’s ability to protect the puck, and not gift the opposition odd-man rushes or easy transition plays improves, then I’d bet Koskinen, and whoever else is in net, will have better numbers. Koskinen has played quite well in 11 of the 14 starts since Cam Talbot was traded. Sure, you’d like him to play well every night, but I think that is expecting too much. He isn’t an elite goalie, but I think he can be reliable. His glove hand will get a lot of attention, but he’s also made some huge stops the past month and I don’t think it is wise to focus ten times more on a bad goal as we would on a great save.
4. Why are so many interested in trading Matt Benning? I don’t see his $1.9 million cap hit as a major deterrent. He has only played 195 NHL games. He is still developing at the NHL level. In a season where the Oilers are getting killed 5×5, Benning is not. He makes good decisions with the puck. He is a good passer. He is their best open-ice hitter. I think he has the best shot on the blueline, mainly because he is more accurate than Klefbom. The knock is he isn’t the most fleet of foot. Fair, but I don’t see him getting beat constantly.
“He is a smart player. When you have structure he excels,” said former NHL defender Jason Strudwick. I hear some say he is “only” a third pairing defender. What is wrong with that? If he excels as a third pairing player, you should be happy about it. The Oilers need to find more players who fit a specific role. If you know for certain Benning can be good as your third pairing right defenceman that should be viewed as a positive not a negative.
5. Look at Benning’s 5×5 numbers this season compared to the other defenders.
Player TOI GF-GA TOI WO McDavid GF-GA TOI with McDavid GF-GA
Benning 747 39-27 546 18-19 201 21-8
Larsson 1376 41-66 833 19-36 543 22-30
Nurse 1360 50-66 864 22-36 496 28-30
Russell 1094 39-42 738 18-25 356 21-17
Klefbom 949 24-34 581 12-18 368 12-16
Gravel 458 15-17 339 9-12 119 6-5
Sekera 193 9-7 142 4-6 51 5-1
Benning is -1 without McDavid, but a very good +13 with him. I realize he doesn’t play against top lines, and who you play against as a defender will impact your GF-GA ratio, but Benning has not been a detriment at 5×5. It is a very small sample size, but when he is on the ice with McDavid they have a lot of success. I’d have to go through every goal to find out what, if any, impact he had on those goals, but the numbers are worth looking deeper at. Benning leads the Oiles at +12 GF-GA at 5×5.
6. I would argue the Oilers have to find a first or second pair puck moving defenceman much more than they need to worry about replacing Benning in the third pair. There is nothing wrong with reliable third pairing defenders who can chip in offensively. Benning has as many goals as Klefbom, and doesn’t play on the PP. I think he has the best one-timer of any blueliner on the team and I’d give him some more second unit PP down the stretch to see what he can do.
7. Right now the biggest area of need for next season is on the left wing. Last game the Oilers had a grand total of eight goals from the left wingers. Milan Lucic has five, Jujhar Khaira has three, while Joseph Gambardella (in only six games) and Tobias Rieder have none. It is why Tyler Benson’s play in the AHL is so encouraging. He’s not a big goal scorer, but playing with McDavid or Draisaitl means he will get more shooting opportunities in the future.
8. The list of UFA left wingers who have scored more than ten goals this season isn’t very long. Let’s rule out those who will sign big tickets as the Oilers don’t have a lot of cap space for Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner or Anders Lee. So that leaves Ryan Dzingel, Michael Ferland, Brian Boyle, Tomas Vanek and Richard Panik. Panik might make the most financial sense. He isn’t a sexy signing, but I guarantee he will score more than Tobias Rieder. I don’t think Panik will command a long-term deal, but I’d look at him on a one-year deal. At the right price point Ferland would be a solid addition.
9. Another UFA I would look at is Daniel Carr. He won’t be expensive, and he isn’t a regular NHLer, but he has 71 points in 52 AHL games. I’d take a flyer on him, because the Oilers have no one on the team currently who looks like a top-six LW next year. I’m not saying he is either, but he’d be a cheap risk and he might be able to hold a place card for a few games in the top-six.
10. At 5×5 Rieder has been on the ice for only ten goals for. Ten. He’s played 619 minutes at 5×5, and his most common linemate this season has been Leon Draisaitl at 269 minutes (43%). Not only is Rieder not scoring, the team scores very little when he is on the ice. Jujhar Khaira has played 638 minutes and has been on the ice for 21GF, and he’s only played 64 minutes with McDavid and 42 with Draisaitl. Rieder’s saving grace is when he’s on the ice the Oilers haven’t been scored on that much. He is only -8. It has been a remarkably unproductive offensive season for Rieder.
11. Is there a more overrated prospect than NCAA free agents? Sure, some of them become solid, but not spectacular NHL players, but a vast majority are only AHL and often ECHL players. Why do NHL teams continually reach for those players, but rarely sign guys out of U Sports? It is ridiculous. Look at the Oilers. Colin Larkin signed a one-year deal and he is in the ECHL. Nolan Vesey signed a two-year deal and he has played mainly in the ECHL scoring 3-7-10 in 32 games and producing 0-2-2 in nine AHL games. The infatuation with NCAA free agents bewilders me.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/19/2019 – 7:00 am MT