In the Books
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
11 months ago
@Stuart Skinner’s performance in the Edmonton Oilers’ 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Monday goes into the record books as the first shutout of his fledgling NHL career, but it was more than that. It was timely. It was textbook.
The Oilers needed a win as they try to climb the standings in the Pacific Division. What they didn’t need was to play from behind as they’ve done too often this season. Skinner made sure that didn’t happen early with the shots 6-0 in favor of the Sharks. Steadfast off the hop and steady down the stretch on a night when he’d face 20 shots, Skinner delivered.
The big picture we know. With 14 games on his NHL resume, Skinner, 23, has a chance to take the crease with the Oilers or at the very least stake a claim with starter @Mike Smith battling time and injuries and Mikko Koskinen being the goaltending version of playing Russian roulette. Simply put, there’s an NHL job and pay cheque available for this hometown kid.
Small picture, the Oilers needed the points in San Jose and they want the two on the table against the Los Angeles Kings tonight. At 25-18-3, the Oilers sit two points back of the Kings with a game in hand. This is your proverbial four-pointer. With Skinner taking a seat and Smith getting the call, it’s another chance for GM Ken Holland to get a handle on his goaltending.
WHAT THEY SAID
Nov 12, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
“I thought Stuart stood tall when we needed him right off the bat,” said Jay Woodcroft after beating his former team for the first time as an NHL head coach. “I think it’s a habit of this team in this building is they come out very, very hard. Stuart was ready and it’s a big feather in his cap to get his first NHL shutout.”
Woodcroft, or course, has seen plenty of Skinner in Bakersfield dating back to the 2018-19 AHL season. He’s been there for almost every step of Skinner’s development since he turned pro. “I think he’s certainly physically matured and his game has matured, but just as a young man he’s matured,” Woodcroft said.
“How he treats his body, his emphasis on recovery and mentally being able to handle a big workload down in the AHL and find ways to win games at that level. To see him transitioning to beginning his NHL career, I’m proud of him because I do have that relationship going back four years with him.”
“To get a shutout in any league is obviously a special moment and for this to be my first in the NHL, definitely feels good,” said Skinner, who is 7-6-0 with a .280 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 14 career NHL games.
“I’m going to treat this with gratitude. Being to play in the NHL is such a privilege for anybody. To say that I got an NHL shutout is something cool and something they dream of. Very grateful.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
I don’t know what to make of this team. We saw a great start. We saw them come off the rails big time and then recover with a 5-0-1 stretch before the All-Star break. After coming back, they lost two games, getting Dave Tippett fired, and won two under Woodcroft. The swings from best to worst can make your head hurt.
What I do know is this team needs goaltending it can count on, whether it’s someone here or somebody Holland brings in, and Skinner is in that mix playing for a coach he has history with. Skinner’s window of opportunity is as wide open as it’s ever going to be. It’s up to you, kid.