Off the Top of My Head
Photo credit:© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
There’s a fine line between playing your goaltender just enough to keep him on top of his game going into the playoffs and leaning on him too heavily, using him up by the time you get into the games that matter most.
The Edmonton Oilers and Stuart Skinner have tip-toed along that line since Skinner took the crease from Jack Campbell, and he’s been thriving with an increased workload since Feb. 25, playing in nine of the last 10 games and starting in eight. We saw another example Saturday afternoon as Skinner made 33 saves in a 6-4 win over the Seattle Kraken on a day the Oilers were too often lousy defensively.
“I thought he battled really hard,” Connor McDavid said of Skinner in his sixth straight start. “He made really, really timely saves. We were no good in front of him and he made the saves at the right time. He gave us a chance and that’s all you can ask for.”
With the win, Skinner is 22-14-4 with a 2.90 GAA and .911 save percentage in his 42 games. Not bad for a local lad who had just 14 NHL appearances on his resume and was slotted on the depth chart as Campbell’s back-up when the season began.
READING THE ROOM
Mar 16, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and Dallas Stars defensemen Esa Lindell (23) chase a loose puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
After playing 18 games in a span of 35 days, including 11 games on the road in three separate trips, coach Jay Woodcroft cancelled practice on Wednesday and gave his team a rest and recovery day before facing the Stars Thursday. The Oilers responded with one of their best performances this season, winning 4-1.
“I think it’s important to have an understanding of where we’re at in our schedule,” Woodcroft said. “In the last five weeks or so since the all-star break, we’ve gone to the east coast three different times and come back. We went through a stretch of playing 11 games in 20 days. In conjunction with talking with our coaching staff, we just thought that was the best decision.
“We didn’t go on the ice, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get better today. We treated today as a regeneration day to try and refill the energy reservoir so that we’re ready to play against a really good team in the Dallas Stars.”
The Oilers close out the regular season schedule with 12 games in the next 26 days, including a pair of back-to-backs March 27-28 and April 4-5.
Sep 26, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek (20) during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Slater Koekkoek, who played 37 regular season games with the Oilers 2020-2022 before stepping away to concentrate on his mental health this season, provided an update on his status in an interview with Daily Faceoff late last week.
“I left the game just over a year ago and thought I would share a little bit of my story throughout the next while in case someone is feeling shame towards their anxiety. You are not alone,” he said. “I left the game because my life inside of it had gotten to a place that was unbearable and unhealthy towards my mental health . . .”
This is an honest and raw account by Koekkoek. You can read the entire item here.
WHAT SAY YOU?
Many fans – you might be one of them –were experiencing great angst waiting for Oilers’ GM Ken Holland to start making moves in the days before he actually got down to business leading up to the trade deadline March 3. That’s changed since then.
Based on polling by The Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal, Holland has gone from buffoonery to brilliance in the span of just a couple weeks. Sure. You can read that piece here.
The 15th birthday celebration for Oilersnation Saturday is just another reminder of how time flies. I’m very happy to say I’ve been around for all of them through good times and bad since I first signed on here. I’m grateful to have been a part of it. Happy Birthday everybody!
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