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Depth Scoring, and Stuart Skinner’s elite run between the pipes

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Tyler Yaremchuk
5 months ago
When the Oilers were really down in the dumps earlier this season, I think a lot of us knew eventually they would go on some sort of a winning streak. Even if you’re like me and thought the playoffs would be a bit of a stretch, everyone knew that they wouldn’t finish as a lottery team.
Well, a nice 22-3-0 run has vaulted them past the playoff bubble conversation, and now they’re firmly in the mix to finish as one of the top two teams in the Pacific Division. It’s been quite a remarkable run and what’s even more surprising than the number of wins is the fashion in which the Oilers are getting them.
If you had asked me back in November what would fuel an eventual Oilers heater, I would have said two things: Connor McDavid and a red-hot power play.
Of course, you need more than just two things going your way to rattle off a winning streak but just like in the past when the Oilers have gotten red-hot for long stretches, I thought it would go hand in hand with super-elite production from McDavid and a power play that would be sitting somewhere around 40%.
That hasn’t been the case. Instead, it’s been quality defensive hockey, great goaltending, and scoring from two players who, over the last two seasons, could be labelled as two of the Oilers’ most inconsistent offensive producers.
Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod are leading the Oilers in 5v5 production over the course of this 14-game winning streak, and while the production has been unbelievable, it’s also worth noting how clutch those two players have been.
With the Oilers down two goals to the Seattle Kraken, who scores twice in seven minutes to complete the comeback and give them the lead? Warren Foegele.
In a tight game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, where they also trailed by multiple goals, who shines through with a big assist to tie the game and then scores the late game-winner? Ryan McLeod.
Those two have been nothing short of remarkable and this run could very well be changing the Oilers deadline plans. Foegele and McLeod have shown good chemistry in the past and with their confidence presumably higher than it’s ever been, maybe they can form a strong duo on the Oilers’ third line.
Now, I know the old saying “if it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but if these two can give the Oilers strong production on the third line with, say, Dylan Holloway on their left side then that could open the door for GM Ken Holland to go out and add a strong, impactful piece to their top six.
Earlier this week I talked about the idea of adding a player like Tyler Toffoli, who’s in the final year of his deal with the New Jersey Devils. A player like that, who’s capable of scoring at a 35+ goal pace and has plenty of playoff experience would slot in beautifully next to Leon Draisaitl.
How nice would this lineup look:
Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Toffoli (or a similar add)
Holloway – McLeod – Foegele
Brown – Ryan – Perry
The fourth line isn’t perfect simply because you’d have to flip one of Connor Brown or Corey Perry to their off-wing and trust Derek Ryan with full-time centre duties, but even a combination that looks like this would be intriguing:
Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Toffoli (or a similar add)
Foegele – McLeod – Perry
Ryan – Holloway – Brown
The point is that if the Oilers could go out and make one more significant addition to their forward group, their depth up front would be unmatched. I think they’re already close to having one of the best group of forwards in the entire NHL and if they added one more piece, it would be a group that’d be damn hard to stop over the course of a seven-game series.
One area I’ve really cooled on when it comes to potential deadline additions is between the pipes.
The only thing that’s been more important than the production by Foegele and McLeod over the course of this winning streak has been the play of Stuart Skinner.
There’s no denying that the start of the season was rough for the local product, but if you remove the month of October from his season stats, it’s easy to see that he’s given the Oilers not just good goaltending, he’s given them elite goaltending.
Since November 1st, there have been 44 goalies who have appeared in at least 15 games. Among those netminders, Skinner ranks tenth in save percentage and fourth in goals against average.
Now, I know it’s a little bit of a cherry-picked stat because we’re removing Skinner’s worst month of the season from the equation but I have another stat that reaches across the entire season that really shows just how good Skinner has been.
There are only four goalies who have had at least 20 starts this season with a save percentage about .900
Connor Hellebuyck -23
Thatcher Demko – 22
Stuart Skinner -21
Ilya Sorokin – 20
So the only goalies who have had more games this season with a save percentage north of .900 are the two goalies that are the front runners for the Vezina Trophy.
I’m not saying that Skinner is going to win the Vezina, but the idea of him being a finalist this season is not that far-fetched.
His play as of late, coupled with a handful of really solid starts by Calvin Pickard has really cooled the need for a goaltender. I firmly believe the Oilers will go as far as Stuart Skinner will carry them in the playoffs and while I understand that some people really like the idea of adding a veteran like Marc-Andre Fleury to the mix ahead of the deadline, I just don’t get it.
Yes, having some insurance would be great and the team needs to prioritize giving Skinner some rest down the stretch so he doesn’t get burnt out during the playoffs again, but hasn’t Pickard shown he can be trusted? He has a .903 save percentage on the season and hasn’t looked bad in any of his seven appearances.
The cost to get a guy like Fleury, both in terms of assets and cap space, would be high and I think that the Oilers would be better off spending what they have on pieces that will improve the team in front of their elite 25-year-old starter, Stuart Skinner.

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