Stuart Skinner gets pulled too early, and the Oilers can’t beat Oettinger in Game 2 loss

Edmonton Oilers Dallas Stars
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
21 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers dropped a tough 3-1 decision to the Dallas Stars Saturday night, falling to 1-1 in the series after some tense back-and-forth action on both sides of the rink. It was a result fitting with the rest of the league’s conference finals matchups with tight victories through two games in both series. 

Stuart Skinner pulled too early

Through two games in the series, Stuart Skinner is looking back on form between the pipes. In Game 1’s overtime win, the netminder stopped 31 of 33 shots for a 0.939 save percentage and a full 1.74 goals saved above expected. In Game 2, he was a bit dicey with the two goals that got past him, but Skinner fought to give Edmonton a chance to win. The first goal against is one he’d probably like to have back, while the second one was a bunch of deflections that eked by him. There were also plenty of saves like this one:
The thing is while Skinner held up his end of the bargain, Kris Knoblauch didn’t. It was a terrible pull given the fact that the Oilers didn’t even have possession of the puck. The lack of forecheck after Evander Kane gets taken into the wall proved costly as it was a routine breakout for the Stars that got Esa Lindell a clear net crack from centre ice. Seriously, what were the coaching staff thinking? It might be the worst goalie pull that we’ve ever seen.
The deployment also made no sense. Knoblauch had McDavid and Draisaitl out at 4:00 while intending to have them out at 2:30 with the extra attacker to close out the game and hopefully tie it up. That will be a killer shift with little rest to back it up, increasing the chance of breakdowns like the one that gave up the empty netter. It wasn’t necessarily the backbreaker in this one, but it felt like a completely unnecessary goal to give up.
“It’s always difficult at the end of the game when to pull your goalie. You want to get your best players out there and have it set up, but you also don’t want to have too much time pass by without getting them out there,” said Knoblauch on the decision. “We probably would’ve liked to wait just a little bit longer.”

Finding a way to solve Otter

Edmonton came out of the gates firing in this one, jumping on the Stars to try and extend the series lead.
I really liked our start. We knew they weren’t happy with the loss in Game One, they were going to come out hot, but I thought we took that away from them,” said Mattias Ekholm. “I thought we had a good first, I didn’t think it was a great first, but I thought it was good.”
While the Oilers managed to get that momentum and put together a huge 9-1 high-danger chance advantage, the Dallas Stars had Jake Oettinger in net doing stuff like this.
A goalie as in form as Oettinger with his ability can steal games singlehandedly for the opposition. And while the Oilers played well in the first, the second saw them falter and give up that momentum swing.
“I think they might have changed us,” said Connor Brown when asked about what changed in the middle frame. “They were getting fresh guys on and rolling, even though I thought we had some good looks in the second. I don’t think we were getting dominated at any point. They’re a good team, they’re going to come with good pushes this series.”
Unfortunately for Edmonton, they couldn’t quite get back in the driver’s seat after that point, chasing the game slightly as Dallas came on. That also meant that Oettinger was definitely a lot less busy as the Oilers continue to try and find a weak point in his game, which will be key in sinking the Stars and moving on to the Finals.
“I thought the story tonight was the play of the two goaltenders. We only got one goal, but chances we had, chances they had, it could’ve been a very high-scoring game,” said Knoblauch.

Still anyone’s series

Edmonton did well to get a series split on the road.
“If you would’ve told me four or five days ago we could come in here and split against Dallas, who just knocked out Vegas, Colorado, two really good teams, for us to come into their building where they’ve played very well and for us to split one, we would’ve taken that,” said Knoblauch when asked about the first two games in Dallas.
Sure, it’s disappointing to follow up that overtime win with a loss in Game 2, but this game was still very much within reach. And, with just one win, Edmonton now has home-ice advantage.
But, Dallas has also been very good on the road these playoffs. They’re 5-1 when playing away from home, notably clinching their series against the Avs with 3 consecutive road wins. With how these games have gone, it shouldn’t be surprising that these Conference Finals will be neck-and-neck with tight games throughout. 
“You look at it tonight, you look at it in Game One. Game One went to double overtime and tonight, it was one of those tips under the arm on Stu and it’s one of those greasy goals,” said Ekholm. “Also, we’re in the Western Conference Final now. It’s gonna be tight, it’s gonna be hard, it’s supposed to be this way. We’ve played these guys a bunch of times and they know how we play, and it’s going to be a tactical match.”
Connor Brown echoed that sentiment.
“I think at this point in the year, we understand the process we got to play to, and the game plan we’ve got to stick to. Patient, defensive hockey, so it’s just getting to it and executing it. We’re excited to play at home.”

Other things worth mentioning

    Reffing continues to be inconsistent during the 2024 NHL postseason. Knoblauch had some choice words about how Game 2 was called. “I’ve heard a lot about the past, being a spectator, not a part of the NHL, not as a coach, in the NHL, sometimes the standard gets changed a little bit. They would definitely want to make sure it’s a penalty, where in the regular season, some things get let go. That’s obviously unfortunate for us. We’ve got a very good power play and we win a lot of games on the power play. It’s unfortunate for us that it’s tougher to draw penalties in the playoffs than it is the regular season. That being said, I think the standard is the same for both teams. I’m not saying it’s unfair for us, but we would like the same standard.” Ekholm said similar when asked about the Oilers’ inability to draw powerplays.
    “I looked at Darnell’s penalty today, then five minutes later I get cross-checked right in the same spot in the paint. It’s hard. It’s physical, it’s playoff hockey out there. It just seems we need to kill more than we get power plays. Whether that’s just the way it has happened or not, I don’t know. It’s not up to me to really comment on that, but obviously we need to work harder to draw more penalties.”
  • Leon Draisaitl’s 13-game point streak came to an end, but for all that was made about the Oilers’ lack of depth, it was some of the bottom 6 guys and Cody Ceci picking up the points in Game 2 against the Stars. 
  • Edmonton generated 2.27 expected goals for in the first period alone, with Dallas only totalling 2.41 xGF in the entire game. That also meant that over the course of the rest of the game, the Oilers only managed 1.18 xGF. They’ll be hoping to get a complete 60-minute effort where they’ll steadily out-chance the Stars – but it will be difficult given how stingy that defence is. 

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