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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Timely Save: Oilers Need a Few

Every NHL player has a role. Offensive guys need to score. Most bottom six forwards kill penalties. You have puck moving defenders who are supposed to start the rush and defenders who are asked to play sound defensively and limit scoring chances, and you have goalies. Their job is pretty clear. Stop the puck.

Some nights the scorers don’t score, the checkers and penalty killers miss an assignment, the D-men miss a key pass or make a bad read, and some nights the goalies allow a softy. It happens, but when it begins to happen too frequently it becomes a problem for any player, and recently the Oilers aren’t getting the timely saves from their goaltenders.

Last night it was Mike Smith. He allowed six goals. He couldn’t make the timely save, and it cost the Oilers.

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I realize the Oilers defensive coverage has been looser lately, but if your goalie is only good when the defence plays solid, then your goalie likely isn’t good enough.

Through the first 25 games of the season, the Oilers goalies made the timely save. Making saves on Grade A scoring chances gets you on the highlight reel, but usually, it is making the B grade saves that win you the game. Last night Smith didn’t make those.

This Marcus Foligno goal was a prime example. Foligno was the shooter, not Alex Ovechkin, or another elite finisher. It was his 67th goal in 528 games. He isn’t a known scorer. I don’t see it as a bad goal, per se, but that would have been a very timely save and Smith didn’t make it.

Four of the Wild’s goals beat Smith on his glove side. And that isn’t including the first goal, a floater from the blue line that hit him on the wrist and flipped up and over. An unlucky goal, but four goals in one game on the glove side caught my attention. I reached out to a goalie coach to get his thoughts on Smith’s glove hand.

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“He has a hitch where he is dropping his glove and then trying to come up,” he texted. “If you think of the motion — his glove is by his side, and then he drops (butterfly) — and as he’s going down he’s trying to come up at the puck. Right now he isn’t quick enough to catch up to it.”

It is something to monitor, because the Oilers are not yet a defensive stalwart. They are going to give up some scoring chances. Every team does, and yes the Oilers have played too loose recently, but that doesn’t excuse the goaltending. You need some timely saves, and Smith has struggled to make those. He was earlier in the year, but not now.

His last eight starts simply haven’t been good enough.

Minnesota: Six goals on 26 shots and a .769Sv%
Buffalo: Three goals on 22 shots for .864Sv%
Vancouver: Five goals on 38 shots with a .868Sv%
Vegas: Two goals on 27 shots for a .926Sv%. (Win)
Los Angeles: Three goals on 12 shots for a .750Sv% (pulled after first period.)
Colorado: Two goals on 33 shots for a .939Sv%. (Win).
San Jose: Six goals on 25 shots and a .760Sv%
St.Louis: Three goals on 23 shots for a .870Sv%.

That is an .854Sv% and 3.70 GAA in his last eight starts since November 2nd. In his first nine starts, he had a .920sv% and a 2.29 GAA.

Last night wasn’t just a one-off. Smith has struggled to make the timely saves for the past six weeks.

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Since November 1st Koskinen has a .910Sv% and a 2.91 GAA in 11 starts. He posted a .922Sv% and 2.39 GAA in six October starts.

No question the defensive zone coverage, and decision making from the skaters needs to be better. Jujhar Khaira needs to get that puck deep with 20 seconds remaining in the first period, and the line change on the Donato goal by the defence was awful.

The Oilers controlled much of last night’s game. Look at the possession numbers via Sport Logiq.

Controlled zone entries 47-32 for Edmonton.
Controlled zone exits 84-62 in favour of Oilers.
Completed stretch passes 27-10 Edmonton.
Offensive zone possession time was 8:22 for Edmonton and 4:30 for Minnesota.

However, mistakes and bad decisions will happen, and when they do your goalie has to make a timely save. Smith didn’t need to stop all of those goals. Just one could have made a big difference.

MONTH OF GIVING…

Thanks to Scott for his great bid on the A-1 Heating package and to Riley for his bid on the Oilers/Leafs tickets. Your generosity will help many who need it.

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Day 10: Dinner with Strudwick, Brodziak, Brown and Gregor at Vivo Ristorante

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  • Dinner for six people at Vivo Ristorante(West end or Sherwood Park) in their private room. You will dine with Jason Strudwick, Kyle Brodziak, Rob Brown and I will fill the glasses.
  • Includes five course meal, and all beverages and wine of your choice
  • Blue Sky Limos will pick you up and drop you off at the end of the evening.

You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 between 2-6 p.m. and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260. All the money raised will help out Santas Anonymous.

Package #2: Get Fit with Custom Fit

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You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 between 2-6 p.m. and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260. All the money raised will help out Santas Anonymous.

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