Knoblauch has big decision regarding Skinner or Pickard for Game 4

Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
Kris Knoblauch has a very big decision to make: Who will be his starting goalie for Game 4 on Tuesday night?
Stuart Skinner didn’t start the third period in Game 3 after allowing four goals on 15 shots in the first 40 minutes.
Skinner has allowed 12 goals on 58 shots through three games. He has an ugly .793Sv% and 4.40GAA. None of the goals in Game 3 were awful, however, he was unable to make a key stop.
Is he struggling with the lack of shots? He faced 24 shots in Game 1, 19 in Game 2 (overtime) and 15 through two periods of game three.
Does he need a mental rest, more than a physical rest?
Regardless of what it is, Skinner’s numbers are the worst of the remaining eight goalies in the playoffs.
Skinner has the worst Sv% and worst GAA. The numbers aren’t flattering.
“I won’t commit to who is starting Game 4,” Knoblauch said post game.  “It is very emotional right now as the game just ended. We will discuss it tomorrow.”
Knoblauch did add, “Whether it is Game 4 or Game 5, Skinner will play again,” when asked about his starting goalie.
While the numbers suggest it is obvious, a decision like this is never easy or taken lightly.
Knoblauch along with Dustin Schwartz and the other coaches will discuss the options and scenarios.
Since arriving in Edmonton, Knoblauch has shown he is willing to give players a chance to redeem themselves, but he also isn’t afraid to make a change, whether it is his line combinations, defence pairs or having a player sit in the press box. But this is a major decision.
Do they give Skinner a chance to get right back in, or do they give Calvin Pickard his first playoff start? I think they will go with the latter.
They don’t need their goalie to steal them the game. They have limited Vancouver’s shots and scoring chances. They just need solid, consistent goaltending, and in the regular season Pickard showed he is capable of doing it.
However, the playoffs are different, as Skinner can attest.
A night off might help Skinner. But I can’t say for certain and doubt anyone can. This could be a major decision in the outcome of the series, and whomever Knoblauch picks to start Game 4 has to play well or the Oilers could be facing elimination on Thursday.


Mar 10, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan McLeod (71) warms up against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Knoblauch also needs to make some decisions with his forward group.
Edmonton’s defensemen have more goals 5×5 through three games than the forwards do. Not a good sign.
Cody Ceci, Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard have scored 5×5. Ekholm also scored 4×4. Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman have the two forward goals 5×5. Leon Draisaitl has three assists.
The Oilers desperately need something from their other forwards.
Evander Kane44:340002139
Warren Foegele34:51000488
Ryan McLeod33:24000233
Corey Perry29:37000135
Dylan Holloway29:250002116
Mattias Janmark23:36000234
Derek Ryan18:12011132
Connor Brown14:07000022
Adam Henrique11:00000001
It is not pretty. Only Foegele and RNH are averaging even one shot/game 5×5.
Draisaitl has been their best forward in the series. He was excellent yesterday, and whatever injury he has, it isn’t limiting his skating. If Adam Henrique can play, then I’d play him and Dylan Holloway in the top nine. I honestly don’t care what the lines are. If they keep McDavid with Draisaitl and Hyman, fine, then play Henrique with Kane and RNH and have Foegele, McLeod and Holloway as a line. The McLeod line would have loads of speed, and McLeod, despite doing nothing offensively, has been sound defensively. Knoblauch can match them against the Elias Lindholm or Elias Pettersson line and not feel worried.
I’d move Corey Perry to the fourth line with Mattias Janmark and I’d insert Sam Carrick into the lineup. Make that fourth line one that can grind and cycle the puck.
Regardless of what the line combinations are, the Oilers need more guys in their bottom nine willing to get to the net and create traffic. How many rebound chances have they had? I’d guess maybe three the entire series.
It’s not like the Canucks are lighting it up at 5×5. They have seven goals through three games and two of them, from Conor Garland and Nikita Zadorov, were from terrible angles that Skinner should have stopped.
Edmonton doesn’t need a huge offensive surge from their 4-13th forwards, they just need a pulse offensively.


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