About Stuart Skinner
Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
8 months ago
The goalie comparison graphic from the NHL Network that ran on Twitter Monday featuring Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner posed a question: Which goaltender will take the reigns down the stretch for the Edmonton Oilers? I said, pardon?
Trick question? Anybody paying attention even a little bit has known the answer to that for several weeks. Just for good measure, Skinner added an exclamation mark by backstopping the Oilers to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres with 37 saves, making Connor McDavid’s second goal of the game stand up as the winner in the second game of a four-game road trip.
After a 7-5 loss in Winnipeg to open the trip, the Oilers headed for Boston and Toronto with two much-needed points, and they didn’t need to score five or six goals to get them as has been the case too often with Campbell struggling. The 24-year-old from Edmonton is without a doubt the go-to guy in the paint now. I can’t imagine that changing for the balance of the season and playoffs, however long that might be.
McDavid’s second goal of the night, to give him a single-season career-high 124 points, decided the game. But it was Skinner, who faced 20 shots in the opening 20 minutes, who was the difference. Without Skinner, the Oilers would’ve packed their bags for Beantown without a sniff. Instead, they’re 35-22-8 and just four points back of Las Vegas and Los Angeles in the Western Conference.
WHAT THEY SAID
Jan 21, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Vincent Desharnais (73) and goalie Stuart Skinner (74) celebrate their victory against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Oilers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
“You try to always just feel it. Sometimes you don’t, sometimes you do,” Skinner said. “No matter what, you’ve still got a job to do. I think being able to get a couple of saves right off the bat kind of made me feel a little bit better going into the game and were able to just play really well and get our chances as well, and a big credit to the guys in front of me.”
Skinner is 18-13-4 with a 2.86 GAA and .913 save percentage in 37 appearances and is giving coach Jay Woodcroft every reason to ride him for the rest of this trip and beyond. Skinner saved his best work for last, making glove saves on Casey Middelstadt and Ilya Lybushkin in the final five minutes. The way the schedule is spaced, I won’t be surprised to see Skinner get the call in the next five games. First things first.
“Absolutely,” Skinner said when asked if he feels his confidence and his game growing as his first full season in the NHL unfolds. “I think being able to learn from a lot of the mistakes and from the good things that I’ve been able to do on and off the ice.
“Being able to grow as a teammate, as a player, and just kind of learning how the NHL kind of works and being able to try your best to do well, it’s been a massive learning curve and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
I can’t imagine the Oilers are ready to write off Campbell 32 games into the first season of a five-year, $25-million contract — even if some fans are. Campbell will have to get his act together over the off-season to have any hope of getting back the starting job he held at the beginning of the season. That’s down the road.
As of right now with the powerhouse Bruins up next, Skinner has the crease. Assuming he does enough to keep it for the balance of this season and the playoffs, it will make for a helluva local-boy-makes-good story. It’ll be up to Holland to sort the rest out later.
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