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Monday Mailbag – What is your ideal Oilers goaltending duo?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
9 months ago
Happy Monday, everybody! As always, I’ve got a brand new Mailbag set and ready to help you get your week started and make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re talking about Jay Woodcroft’s hot start, roster deployment, and more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
Feb 14, 2022; San Jose, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) celebrates with defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) after the game against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
1) James in Peterborough asks – With the emergence of Stuart Skinner, the Oilers have three goalies capable of playing at the NHL level. Who would you like to see as the main tandem and why?
Robin Brownlee:
If the Oilers’ tandem beyond this season is any two of the three, they haven’t addressed goaltending properly. Smith breaks down too often at this point in his career and is near the end of the line. Koskinen has very good stretches, like right now, but struggles with too much work and Skinner is promising but not proven. I’d like to see the Oilers find a proven veteran who can split time with Skinner.
Jason Gregor:
Good question. It should be Smith as one, but he can’t find a way to stop the puck in the first six minutes of games, outside of the starts against the Islanders. Not ideal. They will give the veterans a chance on the road trip, but if Smith continues to struggle Woodcroft and Holland will have to seriously look at making a change. I don’t think they are there yet, but if the early-game struggles continue they might have no choice.
Cam Lewis:
Smith is all over the grid and, given his age, can’t be relied on to have more than a handful of good games in a season. The same goes for Koskinen, who has been an enigma his whole NHL career, putting together good stretches and then falling off a cliff. Skinner has had a nice stretch of games but hasn’t proved much just yet. The solution is more than likely external if this Oilers team is going to go on a run come spring.
Zach Laing:
My main tandem this year would be Stuart Skinner and Mikko Koskinen. I think you can get near a 50/50 split with them and be comfortable doing so. Jay Woodcroft has expressed his comfort with any of the three, but it’s getting harder and harder to watch Mike Smith. After last night, his save percentage drops to a career-low .895.
Baggedmilk:
Regardless of what I think, I’m pretty sure we’re going to ride with Smith and Koskinen until the end of the year unless one of them gets hurt.
2) Bryson asks – I know it’s still very early but what changes are you seeing under Jay Woodcroft that are leading to the Oilers’ success?
Robin Brownlee:
Better defensive awareness and coverage from forwards and D-men in unison. Ice time is more balanced and everyone is involved. Not running McDavid and Draisaitl ragged.
Jason Gregor:
Limiting rush chances is the most obvious one, but I’m curious to see how they handle the next three games. Limiting, NYI, SJ, LA and ANA off the rush is much different that slowing down CAR, FLA and TB.
Cam Lewis:
The team is playing with more pace and more players are getting involved so the team isn’t relying too much on two players.
Zach Laing:
Tactically, I’ve been impressed with the way Jay Woodcroft has deployed his offensive lines and pairings. In my eyes, he’s making every player feel like they are valuable in the bigger picture. The commitment to the puck and working together as a five-man unit on the ice has been noticeable, too.
Baggedmilk:
The biggest thing I see is that the boys are much more aggressive while defending, and I especially like the way the defencemen are standing guys up at the blue line rather than backing into their own goalie. On offence, the Oilers have outshot every opponent in the Woodcroft era and those shots aren’t just coming from the outside of the ice either.
3) Taylor asks – What is everyone’s take on Jay Woodcroft running the 11-7 roster and spreading out the minutes far more than Dave Tippett ever did?
Robin Brownlee:
The record speaks for itself. Not doing this was a major oversight by Tippett.
Jason Gregor:
I think Duncan Keith’s injury is a factor, but even when he returns they might stick with it. I also think it injuries to two RW plays a small role as well as they have fewer forwards they feel can make an impact in the game.
Cam Lewis:
Same as above, more players getting involved is a good thing.
Zach Laing:
As I mentioned above, he’s making everyone feel useful. That’s huge.
Baggedmilk:
I didn’t think I would like it as much as I am, but having that extra defenceman is really spreading the minutes out and giving guys like Darnell Nurse some rest that wouldn’t have otherwise been there for them.
Feb 19, 2022; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates his second period goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
4) Anne asks – How can the Oilers solve the issues they’re having with the special teams lately? It seems like the power play and penalty kill are both struggling with no end in sight, and that’s a complete 180 from where they were at the start of the year.
Robin Brownlee:
PP was never going to maintain the pace it set early and it’s not going to be as bad as it’s been in the last dozen or so games. PK has to climb back into the 80’s and it will.
Jason Gregor:
They need some actual practice time. They will have a practice Tuesday, and it will give Woodcroft a chance to work on special teams, and then Thursday they will have another practice, and that one can be a bit more up tempo as they don’t play until Saturday.
Cam Lewis:
More time with a coach who has the background that Woodcroft does (being an X’s and O’s video guy) will likely help.
Zach Laing:
The powerplay was always going to regress towards the mean, but in the same breath they’re better than what they’ve shown recently. I liked the powerplay goal scored last night with Evander Kane’s traffic in front resulting in a goal. More of that, please.
Baggedmilk:
I think the PK is starting to come around a little bit even though it’s still giving up goals far too regularly, but the power play struggles are real head scratchers for me. It’s like we’ve switched a bunch of personnel or anything like that, but the boys are having a really tough time getting themselves settled. I also think other teams are adjusting to the Oilers continuously looking for Draisaitl for a cross-ice one-timer and it means we need to figure out more than one pitch. That fastball is great, but what else have you got?
5) @dangersuede asks – Who is a player that played for the organization that you swore would break out and be a big star, but ended up never making it in the NHL?
Robin Brownlee:
I thought Rob Schremp had a chance based on offensive creativity alone.
Jason Gregor:
I thought Gilbert Brule was going to be better than he was.
Cam Lewis:
Oh man, the list is long. Gilbert Brule, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark. There are so many from the H.O.P.E. years.
Zach Laing:
Probably Anton Lander. He showed he could think the game of hockey at a high level with some impressive work in the AHL, but struggled to put the game together at the NHL level.
Baggedmilk:
My sweet Nail. I thought you were going to be our Pavel Bure, and boy was I wrong.

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