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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The day after: Edmonton Oilers need to help Mikko Koskinen

Welcome to the day after where we dive into what’s happening with the Oilers the day after a game. Here’s last night’s post-game article. 

If there’s one thing clear through the first three Oilers games of the season, it’s that they have no problem playing high-event hockey.

Through the first three games of the year the Oilers have taken 187 shot attempts and allowed 201 shot attempts. It’s a style of hockey reminiscent of the Oilers of the ’80’s, except the only difference is that the Oilers of today don’t have Grant Fuhr in net.

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While Mikko Koskinen has fought hard, he’s no Grant Fuhr. He can’t be expected to shut the door when needed every single night. Instead, the Oilers need some major work in recommitting themselves to playing away from the puck.

Much like the nights before, the Oilers on Saturday night gave up more odd-man rushes than I could keep track of. Seemingly every chance the Habs had last night Montreal players beat Oilers players to pucks and generated these odd-man chances.

Edmonton needs Koskinen to be good for them. In fact, they really just need him to be perfectly average — exactly what he was statistically last season compared to other goalies around the league.

But you could see as the night went on that Koskinen was starting to get tired. After the game, Dave Tippett said that he and goalie coach Dustin Schwartz spoke about pulling Koskinen to give him a break and get Skinner some reps, but they ultimately chose against it. While I don’t hate the mindset of trying to push Koskinen as well as the team in front of him to be better, you have to factor in just how much hockey Koskinen is going to be playing over the course of the month.

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He had back-to-back starts against the Vancouver Canucks last week, and then started last night. He’ll start again Monday, and barring anything unforeseen every game until at least the 30th/31st.

Simply put the Oilers can’t allow an average of 67 shot attempts against Koskinen night in and night out for the rest of the month. And that’s where the players need to step up on ice and make better plays to a) corral the puck in the defensive zone, b) get the puck safely out of the zone, and three, be able to sustain offensive zone pressure.

The best defence is a good offence and it really becomes an issue for all players. At 5v5, the Oilers top-six has done a solid job of outshooting and outscoring the opposition, but the bottom-six has not. Small sample size or not, they’re playing terribly and are a liability every time they step on the ice.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard that before.

Nonetheless, the Oilers players know they need to play better in front of Koskinen, too.

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Edmonton has a mandatory day off today and will reconvene Monday morning ahead of another game against the Canadiens. The Oilers looked really good at times offensively, but ran into a really good goaltender.

Backhanders…

  • Looking for goalie help, the Oilers reached out to Jimmy Howard to see if he would be interested in joining the team, Sportsnet Elliotte Friedman reported, but Howard declined and will retire. Freidman also reported the Oilers may look to some amateur goalies to be the clubs’ third player until Mike Smith is off LTIR or until Troy Groesnick are able to clear protocols.
  • With Zack Kassian missing last night’s game due to the birth of his second child (congrats to Kassian and his family), the Oilers had an array of players sliding up alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid. Josh Archibald got the longest look playing eight minutes there. Jesse Puljujarvi also got looks in the third period. With Puljujarvi, the top line out attempting Montreal 5-2 but were on the ice for one goal against.
  • The Oilers powerplay had three powerplay chances but didn’t score. They did, however, seem to have much better flow. It’ll take a bit of time to get things going but tonight was a good sign. There were a number of real solid scoring chances, but once again, Carey Price.

On Twitter: @zjlaing