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Everything is About Winning

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
9 months ago
As many times as @Mikko Koskinen has been ridiculed and written off during his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, I can understand how it might have been tempting for him to fire back at his critics after he shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 Tuesday.
With his 39-save collar coming on the heels of a dazzling 44-save effort in a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers Saturday for a 7-0-1 record through his last eight starts, Koskinen resisted any urge to shove it up the backsides of his critics verbally during his post-game interview. He instead let his actions do the talking for him.
Those of you who’ve been around here awhile will recognize that as SIUTBOHC, a term I coined many seasons ago when I was absolutely convinced Jeff Deslauriers had proven his critics wrong and was on the verge of establishing himself as a bonafide starter. History shows I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
I’ve been damn sure more than once Koskinen needed to be sat down or sent away because he doesn’t have what it takes to be a reliable starter – I haven’t been alone in that — yet here he is on that 7-0-1 roll. With the Oilers desperately needing a go-to guy in the crease with the NHL trade deadline approaching, is Koskinen a better short-term bet than @Mike Smith or @Stuart Skinner if GM Ken Holland can’t swing a deal? He looks like it right now.

WHAT HE SAID

Feb 14, 2022; San Jose, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft stands behind the bench before the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
“Everything is about winning,” said Koskinen, who improved to 19-8-2 with a 3.02 GAA and .905 save percentage after blanking the Flyers. “You either win or lose the game, two points or zero points. It’s pretty clear I’m a team player, I don’t care about the stats anymore. I’m too old anyways. I’m here to win the game and hopefully something bigger.”
“Too old anyways?” Koskinen, 33, is a kid compared to Smith, who has yet to stay healthy long enough to regain the form he showed last season. Smith is 5-7-1 with a 3.53 GAA and .893. At some point, starting whoever gives the Oilers the best chance to win has to trump giving Smith the chance to find his game and waiting for Holland to swing a deal. If that’s Koskinen or even Skinner, in the minors now, go with it. 
We know the book on Koskinen. If you don’t manage his workload, he struggles. He’s prone to giving up bad goals and early goals, sometimes they’re one and the same. Smith has been guilty of that as well. If Koskinen is spelled off and rested, might he be able to get the job done? Maybe. What coach Jay Woodcroft needs is for somebody to take the job and run with it. 
“I would say that our players and the coaching staff and the people in our room have confidence in all of our goaltenders, number one,” Woodcroft said. “The second thing I would say is Mikko has been playing very well for a long period of time here. It’s not just over the last few weeks. Before the break, he had put up some good numbers . . . I do think he inspires confidence in the team. He’s been a big factor in those three wins I’ve seen personally.”
To borrow from Koskinen last night, building some momentum leading up to the playoffs and then making some noise in the post-season would likely qualify as “something bigger.” If Koskinen could shut the faces of his critics by playing a part in making that happen, it would be a great story – and one I never saw coming. 

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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