Oilers’ Goaltending Woes Continue

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
2 years ago
Right now @Mike Smith isn’t the answer to the Oilers’ goaltending woes. Outside of a great performance against the New York Islanders and a solid one against the Los Angeles Kings, Smith has struggled. allowing early goals and last night it cost the Oilers two points. Right now Smith playing well is the outlier.
@Mikko Koskinen will start in Florida on Saturday, and if he plays well Jay Woodcroft might opt to play him Sunday in Carolina. Many former players have said back-to-back afternoon games are easier, because even after travel from Florida to Carolina you can be in bed early and get a good sleep. But playing Koskinen, or most goalies, back-to-back isn’t ideal. The only reason Woodcroft would consider it is because Smith is struggling.
Smith looks out of sorts. Steven Stamkos’ goal with 15 seconds remaining in the first period was a terrible goal. Smith did not play it well.
The goalie union is very protective of their own, but even former goalies were perplexed by how Smith played that shot.
Former NHLer and current Daily Faceoff analyst Mike McKenna noted how being down in reverse VH at that point isn’t ideal, and Olympian Shannan Szabados added her thoughts. It is clear Smith put himself in a bad position and it gave Tampa the lead late in the first period.
Is Smith lacking confidence? It sure looks that way, and when your goalie lacks confidence, and is playing passive, it is much more damaging than a forward who can’t score. It isn’t fair, but it is the truth. Teams can win when a winger goes 20 games without a goal, but if your goalie is continually allowing soft goals your odds of winning diminish significantly. And right now Smith is not playing well.
He’s allowed eight goals on his last 28 shots. And even with the solid performances against New York and Los Angeles, Smith has a .882Sv% in his seven starts after the All-Star break. In five starts under Woodcroft Smith’s Sv% has been .974, .938, .900, .818 and .429. Far too inconsistent. In his lone start Mikko Koskinen posted a .917Sv% while Stuart Skinner had a shutout v. San Jose.
The Oilers gave Smith an opportunity to regain his form, and the starting job, but he hasn’t found it. How much more patient can they be?
Head coach Jay Woodcroft focused on the positives, post game.
“He tried to battle through some things, and he made some saves for us as well,” Woodcroft said. “We had a chance to win that game. We gave up 23 shots on net. That’s a good thing.
“Were there some breakdowns that we can be better at as a team? Yes, there were. We’re going to work to address those. We were in a one-goal game in a tough environment against the Stanley Cup champions. There was a lot of good in that game as well.”
Edmonton did play well. They were in the game all night and even when they went down 4-1, they battled back to make it 4-3 and were a @Leon Draisaitl goal post away from tying it in the final minute. At the very least it should have been tied, because Smith should have stopped the Stamkos goal. Weak goals will happen now and again, but when you allow 22 goals on 187 shots over seven games that is simply too many.
Smith might get another start on Sunday in Carolina, but if the inconsistent play continues general manager Ken Holland will have to make a difficult decision. When a forward is struggling you can bump them down the lineup, or even to the press box for a game or two. You can’t hide a goalie. Koskinen can’t start six, or seven in a row, especially in a condensed schedule, so either they play Smith or they recall Stuart Skinner.
Edmonton could move one of @Duncan Keith, @Jesse Puljujarvi or @Kyle Turris to LTIR and recall @Stuart Skinner. However, I don’t get the sense a Skinner recall will occur before the weekend. Smith might get one final chance. Some will argue he shouldn’t, and based on his recent play that is valid.
The Oilers have given Smith the chance to be the starter. He hasn’t been able to grab it due to inconsistent play. He’s had a few good starts, but too often he’s been bad. There hasn’t been enough “He’s played okay” in between.
Koskinen can split duties or be a solid backup, but he isn’t a starter. Smith hasn’t been a reliable starter all season due to injuries and inconsistent play. Koskinen has an .899Sv% and Smith is at .891Sv%. They’ve started 39 of 51 games (76%). Isn’t that a big enough sample size to know they aren’t the answer?
Maybe Skinner isn’t the answer, but in his 12 starts he’s been better (.912Sv%) than both veterans.
How much longer do the players have to wait?
Holland should do his best Superintendent Chalmers impersonation and yell “Skiiinneerrrr!”
It is time.

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