Are the Oilers brave enough to make a change in net?

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
1 month ago
It’s not a stretch to say that the Edmonton Oilers have outplayed the Vancouver Canucks in every facet in this second-round playoff series. Well, except for one, that is.
Let’s take you back to last postseason. In Game 1 of the second round, the Oilers put 27 shots on former Oiler netminder Laurent Brossoit, who allowed four goals and those shots for an .852 save percentage. In Game 2, Brossoit allowed five goals on 32 shots before being pulled after the second intermission, this time posting an even worse .844.
It looked as if the Oilers would get to him once again in Game 3, scoring a goal on their first three shots, but Brossoit was injured, and Adin Hill took over. Over the following four games, here were Hill’s save percentages.
  • Game 3: 100%
  • Game 4: 87.9%
  • Game 5: 91.4%
  • Game 6: 95.0%
As you know, the Oilers fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champions for the second consecutive season, but the team that the Vegas Golden Knights saw in the postseason was also carried by a hot netminder.
Now, there was more of a track record surrounding Sergei Bobrovsky, as the Russian netminder was a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. However, it looked as if he was on the decline after signing the mega-deal with the Florida Panthers, as he posted a .905 save percentage and a 2.97 goals-against average in 185 games since joining the Panthers. This included a .901 save percentage and a 3.07 goals-against average in 2022-23.
Florida got in as the eighth seed, but it wasn’t due to Bobrovsky, as Alex Lyon (now with the Detroit Red Wings) played his butt off, and the Panthers had a six-game win streak towards the end of the season, as well as some luck.
Lyon posted an .888 save percentage in Florida’s first four games against the historic Boston Bruins, who went up 3-1 in the opening series against Florida. From Game 5 of the first series, until Florida won Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Bobrovsky posted a .942 save percentage in 12 games, helping the Panthers make their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Results aside in the finals against Vegas (.844 save percentage), Florida’s success is thanks to Bobrovsky.
On Sunday evening, we witnessed goaltending stealing a game, as Artūrs Šilovs stopped 42 of 45 shots en route to a Vancouver Canucks Game 3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers to take back home ice advantage. On the other hand, Stuart Skinner allowed four goals on 15 shots for a .733 save percentage, his second game this series with a sub-800 save percentage.
Now, the fault can’t be pinned on him, as the Oilers broke down defensively quite a few times, but at some point, your netminder needs to make a save. Sadly, Skinner doing just that the past two playoffs is few and far between. The only example of that this postseason is when he saved all 33 shots in Game 4 in the first round to give the Oilers a 3-1 series lead.
Of the 20 postseason games Skinner has played in his career, he’s only registered a save percentage above .900 in seven of them and only five postseason games with a save percentage above .910. With a netminder posting a .900 save percentage in the past three games against the Canucks, it’s not a stretch to say that the Oilers could very well be up 3-0 in the series.
Let’s bring you back to last season. Game 4 of the first round was awful for Skinner, as he allowed three goals on 11 shots, with the resulting .727 save percentage being his worst in any playoff game. This left the Oilers being down 3-0 after the first period, with a loss resulting in a 3-1 series lead for the Kings.
Enter Jack Campbell, who saved 27 of 28 shots, including eight shots in the second period that allowed Edmonton to tie the game. The only blemish on Campbell’s performance was a partial breakaway goal in a period where he saw 17 shots. Edmonton tied the game with just over three minutes left, with Zach Hyman winning it in overtime.
Despite Skinner rocking an .881 save percentage after this game, the Oilers never turned to their $5 million man unless in relief. Overall, Campbell allowed just two goals on 51 shots for a .961 save percentage in the 2023 playoffs.
Fast forward back to this postseason, Skinner has an .877 save percentage in eight games played. While there are some solid performances in there, namely Game 4’s shutout and his third game, where he saved 27 of 28 shots in Game 3 of the first round, it’s clear that it’s time for a change.
Campbell has rough time in his five games this season with the Oilers, posting an .873 save percentage and 4.50 goals-against average. However, Campbell posted a .918 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average in 33 games with the Bakersfield Condors. Sure, there’s a difference in AHL players and NHL players, but Campbell has seemingly regained confidence and it’s time for a change.
Of course, Calvin Pickard has also earned an opportunity to start a game. He made his first playoff appearance, saving all three shots he faced, but had a solid season as the Oilers’ backup, posting a 12-7-1 record with a .909 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average in 23 games played.
It’s clear that a change needs to be made, and it should’ve happened last postseason as well. The question is, will the Oilers be brave enough to make it?

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