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Waiting on Jack

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Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
1 month ago
It’s been almost a month since Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell called himself out by characterizing his play in the paint as pathetic Nov. 5 before taking some time to watch Stuart Skinner carry the bulk of the workload and try to get his game in order.
Given the results since then, three losses in five starts, the latest being a 5-3 setback against the Minnesota Wild Thursday in which Campbell allowed five goals on 30 shots, it fair to ask, what now? Campbell sits at 7-6-0 with a 4.12 goals-against average and an unquestionably heinous .872 save percentage. 
We’re just 24 games in the first season of a five-year contract that pays Campbell $25 million, so it’s way too early to definitively declare his signing by GM Ken Holland a failure and a waste of salary – even if those prone to panic have done so already. That said, it’s not too early to declare Campbell’s work less than good enough and ask when that might change.
Campbell’s GAA and save percentage today are pretty much exactly where they were – 4.20 and .874 – when he threw himself under the bus after allowing six goals on 36 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Dallas Stars. Of course, GAA and save percentage aren’t the only numbers that matter, but they’re a good place to start as a back up to the eyeball test.

IN THE PAINT

Dec 1, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save during the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Campbell’s save percentage during this 2-3-0 stretch since his re-set has been .833, .870, .903, .781, and .946. Numbers aside, what we saw against the Wild last night was a goaltender who couldn’t come up with a big save when the Oilers needed it. I thought a pad save at the end of the second period might swing things, but no.
The 1-1 power-play goal by Joel Eriksson Ek is here. Sharp angle. You’d like a save there. The 2-2 goal on a power play by Kirill Kaprizoff was a tough chance in tight. The 3-2 goal by Frederick Gaudreau was a nifty tuck high on the backhand. Sam Steel scored the 4-2 goal untouched and Mats Zuccarello made it 5-2 on a shot Campbell had to close the five-hole on.
The Oilers have been far from flawless defensively in front of Skinner and Campbell. Not close. They’re 11th in shots against per game at 32.9 and they allow too many quality chances. And it’s not always one or the other when the puck ends up in the net – you can have bad goaltending and bad defensive play on the same goal. We have seen plenty of that.
The way I see it, and allowing that Skinner hasn’t played as well in his last three appearances after a ridiculously hot start, is coach Jay Woodcroft should give him the net Saturday against Montreal to open a four-game homestand. Forget Campbell’s contract and the big picture. Go small picture for now. Win games.
It’s too soon to write Campbell off, but it’s not too soon to have him take a seat at the end of the bench for as long as Skinner gets the job done. Here and now, Campbell “finding his game” is second on my list of priorities. Skinner is the starter. Go forth and stop pucks.

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