The Day After 28.0: Did the Oilers make a mistake not starting Stuart Skinner?

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
5 months ago
It was a come-to affair on Thursday night in Edmonton.
On the back of an eight-game winning streak, the club welcomed the Tampa Bay Lightning to town, only to have netminder Stuart Skinner unfurl in a 7-4 loss. He was highly critical of himself after the game, saying he cost the team the win, and that he should’ve been the only one without his head high.
The general assumption, as it should’ve been, was that Skinner would get the crease last night. It would’ve offered him an opportunity to rebound in a big way for the team, capping off a six-game homestand in fashion before the club heads out on an equally long road trip split in two thanks to Christmas.
Instead, Calvin Pickard got the crease in last night’s 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers and hung out to dry by those in front of him.


We can sit and try and ponder the semantics of it all and whether or not Skinner would’ve put together a better performance than Pickard, but that’s not the point of it all. Stuart Skinner should’ve been given the chance to rebound right away from his poor performance. Instead, it’s a five-day gap between games for him, as the Oilers don’t play again until Tuesday night when they visit the Islanders.
It’s not an end-of-the-world situation, and truth be told, the extra few days of rest will probably do well for Skinner, who has started 14 of the Oilers’ last 16 since Jack Campbell was placed on waivers. Even still, the team will have five days between games during their Christmas break, so there’s more than enough chance for him to recharge.
Could Skinner have made much of a difference last night? Given the way, the Oilers ran into another great goaltending performance, with Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky stopping 33 of 34 shots, maybe he could’ve given the club a chance to stay in the game. Instead, Florida racked up three in the first period, a fourth goal in the second, and added an insurance marker for good measure in the third.
“The first period, pick had no chance on those,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch after the game. “Just coming down right through the slot with guys crowding him. I don’t put any blame on him in the first period. We’re down 3-0, no issues with him on those plays.”
Where Knoblauch saw an issue, however, was from a lack of urgency.
“I don’t think we defended well enough, I don’t think there was enough urgency to protect the slot… I just think we need to get a little more urgency playing defensive hockey,” he added.
“When things are going well, you often forget about those details and what made you successful. We just need to get back to playing a little better defensive hockey.”
The Oilers’ best looks came in the second period on Saturday night, with Zach Hyman getting them on the board 8:08 in. And despite peppering Bobrovsky with more than a fair share of high-danger, should’ve-been-goal shots, they just couldn’t get enough through the wickets.
C’est la vie.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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