With the possibility of the NHL returning for a 24-team playoff tournament looking more like a reality with each passing announcement, I wanted to start a discussion on what Dave Tippett is going to do in net. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Sunday Edition), I’m asking you to put on your coach’s cap and make a decision on whether or not you’d start Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith for the play-in series against the Blackhawks?
Now that we’re legitimately getting closer to the NHL being back on the ice for the first time in three months, there are a plethora of roster questions that Dave Tippett is going to need to answer and none, to me, is more interesting than what he’s going to do in net. A few weeks ago, Gregor looked at some of the decisions that Dave Tippett will have to make whenever the Oilers are able to get back on the ice, and when it came to goaltending, he broke the situation down quite nicely:
These two were evenly split much of the season. Mike Smith started 37 games while Mikko Koskinen started 34. They played 2,156 and 2,116 minutes respectively.
Since February 1st their numbers are very interesting.
Smith started 12 games and was 7-3-2 with a 2.93 GAA and a .905Sv%.
Koskinen started eight games and was 3-4-1 with a 2.40 GAA and .934Sv%.
Smith won more games, but Koskinen had better numbers. The Oilers scored 45 goals in Smith’s 12 starts and 18 in Koskinen’s eight.
Smith’s fiery demeanour engages his teammates, and that combined with his experience is why I think Tippett might lean to him in game one.
It goes without saying, picking a starter for the play-in round and (hopefully) playoffs is going to be a very interesting decision, and that’s why I’m curious to know which route you’d run provided that the choice was up to you. Mikko or Mike? Let’s look at the numbers from this past season.
MIKKO KOSKINEN’S SEASON SO FAR
With two more years on his contract after this one, Mikko Koskinen was expected to be the Oilers’ starter for the foreseeable future and I can’t see why the team wouldn’t want to see what they have in him as they head into the playoffs. That said, Mikko doesn’t have any NHL playoff experience and I think we would all agree that these games are going to have a different flavour to them over the ones played between October and April (normally, of course). Does that lack of experience mean anything seeing as the team will have gone months between games? Would his consistency throughout the year give him an edge at all?
MIKE SMITH’S SEASON SO FAR
Since the calendar flipped over to 2020, Mike Smith has been rock solid between the pipes for the Oilers and provided the kind of consistency they needed to win on a regular basis. In fact, I would argue that there were plenty of nights where had it not been for him that the team would have been hanging another ‘L’ on the board rather than adding two points to their totals. There’s also the angle that Mike Smith has 24 games worth of playoff experience under his belt which could prove to be valuable, especially under the heightened pressure of the five-game play-in series against Chicago.
WHAT SAY YOU?
Now that you’ve had a chance to look at the numbers and spend a few minutes thinking about it, I want to know which direction you’d go if you were in Dave Tippett’s shoes. Maybe you think that Tippett should run with Koskinen because he was more consistent throughout the season before things got put on pause? Maybe you think Mike Smith should get the net because he has more playoff experience and has shown he’s able to perform under pressure? Despite this being a playoff scenario, maybe you think the coach should go with a split as he’s done all year long? Maybe you’ve got an idea in that big ol’ brain of yours that I haven’t even thought of and your wizardry is going to blow us all away?
In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday, I want you to make the call on whether or not Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith should be given the reigns between the pipes for when this 24-team playoff tournament gets going? What say you, Nation?