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GDB Game Notes: Koskinen

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

  • OriginalPouzar

    The concern I have with Koskinen is that, while his overall numbers for the year are OK, he has shown no ability to provide consistent solid tending – giving the team a chance to win, generally, night in and night out. Of course, all players get hot and cold, however, its important that a starting tender be somewhat consistent and Koskinen’s season has been pretty much all heaters and periods of ice cold. He has the huge heater at the beginning of the year followed by a full 2 month cold stretch where he was literally not good enough every single game except for one. Then he got hot after Talbot was traded and now is getting cold again.

    To me, that’s not good enough.

    • camdog

      During that cold stretch Sekera, Klefbom and Russell were hurt and Manning, Petrovic and Jones were in the line up and half the forward group was AHL quality. It’s been a weird year, tough to evaluate. Most goalies go cold with defenceman that the AHL club won’t even play.

      Sean Tierney’s charts have Koskinen above average, Talbot as one of the worst. The numbers suggest if the Oilers I’ve an NHL roster they’ll have average goaltending next year, better than anything Talbot has provided the past 2 seasons.

  • TKB2677

    The reason I would consider trading Benning is not because I think he is terrible. He in my books is a decent, right shooting, 3rd pairing guy who does lots of things alright and at 1.9 mill, contract wise he’s not too bad. He’s a guy who needs to have a good partner to play well meaning even if his partner is just at his level, his play drops off a bit. His skating isn’t that great and he looks like a guy who’s a 20 point guy. The reason I trade him is because:
    – The Oilers defense needs to be changed. They need more speed, more offense and puck moving in it. I assume, Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse are all staying. I think Russell gets moved somehow. I even think that Sekera might get moved somehow. But if Benning stays and if the Oilers are only able to move 1 of Sekera or Russell, that means 1 spot will change in the Oilers defense. So how does the Oilers defense realistically change with 1 spot being different? It doesn’t.
    – The Oilers need to add forwards. They don’t have the money to sigh lots of guys nor should they. They don’t have a ton of assets to give up because they already lack NHL depth. So how do you bring in guys? You roll the dice on more PTO’s and Chiasson type signings is one way. But for every Chiasson, you can easily get a Jokinen. So that may not work. Another way is to trade from a position of strength. The Oilers look to have some young guys capable of making the jump. Jones, Lagesson, Persson I think has a chance. Plus Benning is playing decent so you might actually get some value for him. It was rumored that the Leafs almost moved Connor Brown for Benning. Brown would easily slide into the Oilers top 6 and help plus he only makes 200k more.

    • Jason Gregor

      Not saying it will happen, but the NYI went from last in GA last year to first this year. With the exact same six D. Only difference is now Pulock plays four more minutes/game. I believe Oilers have to improve their top-two RD more than exchanging our Benning is all.

  • godot10

    Benning is tradeable. Russell is probably untradeable. The Oilers have lots of potential 3rd pairing options at right D likely ready for test drives next year. So if the Oilers cannot trade Russell, Benning is the only D that can be trade for forward help.

    After next year, he will be too expensive to re-sign as a 3rd pairing option.

    So it is likely sort of the time to cash Benning in, and trade him for a young forward.

    A hockey trade. Asset management. Addressing needs.

  • Oilers in one

    I don’t mind Koskinen. He tends to let a few stinkers in but he seems to bail this team out with 3 or 4 saves every game that he has no business making. So really it makes sense that when you look at his body of work that his stats show off what he is… An average NHL goalie who can go on hot streaks and win the team games with his play. Not saying he’s the answer but with no better options in free agency we should be throwing our support behind him and not bashing him for letting goals in glove side. Arguably one of the tougher areas for a goalie to stop a shot to begin with.

  • I believe the main reason most people are interested in moving Benning is that we have a surplus of third pairing D-men and he would give us the best return while freeing up a little bit of cap space which we desperately need. I agree that we shouldn’t move him, but I do understand where some others are coming from.

    • Jason Gregor

      He makes $1.9m. Petrovic makes $1.95. They have no other RD on roster. So who plays 3rd RD is he is moved? An unproven D? He will save cap space, but will he improve team defensively?

  • Jon123

    Here’s an unpopular suggestion I’m sure.
    Rieder’s stat line after 58 games in Arizona last year and now in Edmonton
    2017-18 Arizona Coyotes 58 GP 8 G 11 A 19 P 80 SH 10.0% SH%
    2018-19 Edmonton Oilers 58 GP 0 G 11 A 19 P 77 SH 0.0% SH%

    If there’s one thing that always seems to be right about stats, it’s that shooting percentage always goes back to normal. If Rieder is as good defensively as Gregor is implying (also makes sense why Hitchcock plays him so dang much), then isn’t he the the definition of ‘buy low sell high’. He’ll never be a top sixer that’s for sure, but as a bottom six defensive specialist, isn’t that useful? It’s not like our team has many defensive stalwarts among the forward group. I know it’s not the biggest need for our team on forward, but it’s a useful component, and the guy would be dirt cheap to re-sign and he’s likely to outperform the contract he gets.

    • The voice of reason

      I agree.
      And Jason, if you say the following:
      “He [Panik] isn’t a sexy signing, but I guarantee he will score more than Tobias Rieder. ”
      Rieder scored decently too – before joining the Oilers. Is it Rieder – or is it something the Oilers have been doing wrong which has lead to so many acquisitions underperform ? Is there truly something in the water in Edmonton ? And what makes you sure that it won’t affect Panik too ?

    • Jason Gregor

      I wasn’t saying he is that good defensively just that despite not doing anything offensively, he doesn’t leak chances. But he is not worth dressing when you only hope not to get outscored since he will add no offence. I’d healthy scratch him.

  • OldOilFan

    Mgmt is [possibly] thinking that Benning+PoolParty in a pkg together might bring back a proven 2nd-pairing puckmoving dman. That might not sound like much of a return, but it accomplishes two objectives:

    1. fixes a tactical weakness (i.e. the Nurse-Russell pairing which lacks a puck mover)

    2. leaves the third pairing up for grabs, for say Jones LD and Bouchard RD to fill, next season.

    It’s likely vets Sekera and Russell will still be on hand next season. Each is capable of being a “steadying” influence, which would allow the team to keep Jones and Bouchard up for the year, with the intention of playing them game in and game out.

  • Serious Gord

    Goalies are a little bit like pitchers. When they first come on the scene they often have impressive debuts as their opponents haven’t seen them before. And thus don’t know their weaknesses and habits.

    And quite often once their opponents have the “book” on them they regress. I think that may be the case with Koskinen but the dataset is still too small to be categorical. And perhaps Koskinen can make the necessary adjustments to bounce back.

  • Deezy

    Koskinen was supposed to be a backup who pushed Talbot. Somehow, Talbot was even worse this year than he was last season. Koskinen’s done well, especially considering the garbage team defense the team plays in front of him. Hopefully, he can work on that weak glove hand in the off season and improve. Personally, I would have signed him at maybe 2 years, $7.5M or so but Chia Claus did his usual extra year, extra million deal. That said, he’s a decent goalie.

  • Battman

    If you ask me, perhaps a new goaltending coach could help remember his glove hand a bit. It seems to me that we’ve had a few talk goaltenders in the last 8-9 years who continue to get beat up high and the only constant through that is goaltending coach. Perhaps it would
    Be prudent to look into seeing what other available coaches are out there

  • Spaceman Spiff

    A sensible column, Jason. Good on you for suggesting patience. Who knows how it’ll be received on here, but a good move, nonetheless.My biggest concern about Koskinen isn’t the glove hand or his inconsistency, it’s that the fandom seems ready to head down the same path with him that it (including me) headed down with Devan Dubnyk.

    The road to Dubnyk’s trade started here – where the fandom got whipped up into a frenzy that led to booing at games, then bad games, then a major drop in his confidence, and then a hasty trade (for Matt Hendricks, mind you) out of here. Dubnyk’s wires were so crossed after he left Edmonton, Barry Trotz and the best set of defencemen in the league couldn’t straighten them out in Nashville … and then Montreal couldn’t figure him out, either. It took the Minnesota Wild and their Western-Conference version of New-Jersey-Devils/Dead-Puck-Era anti-hockey to finally fix him. But we digress.

    Truth be told, Koskinen’s quite fixable. Probably a summer of glove work would do it. Heck, sign him up for a three months at third base in a men’s fastball league in, like, Wetaskiwin. That would definitely do it. There’s a decent goalie there. The KHL numbers back it up. His numbers this season back it up.

    I think we all forget that, functionally, Koskinen’s a rookie. OK, I realize he’s not a “rookie.” He’s older than a rookie (thanks again, Sergei Makharov!) and has played a lot of professional games, but he’s pretty much a newcomer to the NHL. It’s a different league than the one he left all those years ago.

    There are plenty of reasons to believe Koskinen’s one of those old-but-low-mileage late-blooming goalies that come along every once in a while, like Dwayne Roloson (without the moody surliness), or Tim Thomas (without the off-putting comments and tinfoil hats).

    But it’s up to the Oilers organization – and us, as a fandom – to give him that chance.

  • Archer

    Agree entirely with Gregor’s comments on NCAA free agents, mostly they are enormously over-rated disappointments. There have been quite a few Canadian university players that have done well when given a chance, we all know about Randy Gregg, Don Spring, Paul McLean, Joel Ward etc. and most recently Ryan has been a good addition to the Flames. For the very small investment of signing a few top U Sports players the Oilers might find a diamond in the rough. Watched the UNB/Bears national final on Sunday, a very fast, physical, well-played game, and there were at least half a dozen players that appear worth a good look.

  • Heschultzhescores

    I think we need to keep Sekera as a mentor for our young D-men. Sekera handles the punch with poise, and is not afraid to do something more than dump it into a corner and kill the play 80% of the time. As for Kosk, his glove will he fine, a couple of those shots went through his glove. A lot of the flashy glove saves we see are actually the shooter hitting the goalie in the glove. When they hit their spot, no goalie has a chance to move the glove from 20 ft or less. They flash the leather after it hits the glove and embellish the save with the big arm swing. Goaltending these days is 95% positioning, and having the puck hit a giant man in giant equipment. Kosk fits that bill.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    If the Oilers are riding Larsson and Benning at right defense next year and they already have Bouchard, Bear, Berglund, Logan Shaw, and Joel Persson slated as prospects would it be wise to spend assets to add defense when you have 4-5 dmen playing that side in the AHL? I think the Oilers have got themselves in trouble before because they’d have one player to fill a position and no back-up plan (see Draisaitl 2014). Here they have a handful of prospects, different ages and pedigrees who could fill that position.

    I’d avoid spending big trading for any player that fits that position.

    • OldOilFan

      I agree, at least in the sense of “promote from within.”

      It’s time to promote at least 2 dmen. Jones is ready. Bouchard should be able to step in next September as well (given his age, 4 yrs in OHL, and his draft pedigree).

      The tricky part will be deciding “how to bring them along?” That’s why I think Jones and Bouchard (maybe Persson) ought to be brought up…and play regularly. Sekera-Bouchard, for instance, might look pretty good out there.

      h

  • toprightcorner

    Koskinen – I don’t think his glove hand, long term. is as big of a deal that everyone else thinks it is. It is not a skill issue, it is a slight positioning issue. If he comes out of his crease another 5″, he covers that spot, if he holds his glove 2″ higher, he covers that spot. Early in the year he has a big issue handling shots from wide angles, he worked hard on it and fixed it. He should be able to fix his glove hand. When goalies get tired, their glove drops, Koskinen has played a lot in the past month and playing the 2nd game of a back to back, his glove would drop even more.

    Benning – people shouting to trade him is ridiculous. He is a capable 3rd pairing guy. Before Sekera came back, he played most of the season with fringe NHLers or non-NHLers. If the Oilers add a dman with equivalent talent at a lower price, then sure, trade him, but trading him without already adding his replacement is stupid. The Oilers have done far too much of that over the past 10 years and it has to stop.

    Reider – I don’t understand why Rattie is sitting or playing 4 min a night and Reider still plays on the 3rd line? Rattie can at least score, he has the 5th best goals/60 on the team. I would rather have Rattie play 12 min a night, create some chances and maybe make a few mistakes than Reider out there. If the Oilers had scoring depth, sure keep Reider in the lineup for defensive purposes, but they don’t, so they should be playing Rattie and sitting Reider.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Rattie should be in the lineup. Reider, Brodziak, Lucic, Currie, Gagner, Gambarbella: should all be on a rotation thru the press box ( 2 at a time).