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The Day After: The Oilers keep overcoming major problems (their goaltending)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
8 months ago
Somehow, someway, they once again managed to steal two points with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl doing their thing in overtime.
It wasn’t pretty — but they got it done. I guess.
Look, not all five goals against in last night’s 6-5 win over the St. Louis Blues were on Mike Smith.
On two, Tyson Barrie lost battles in front of the net, but the real stinker was the third goal, a long, floating wrister from Brayden Schenn that went clean through Smith’s five-hole.
By the end of the night, the Oilers once again had to outscore their goaltending woes. A .861 from Smith isn’t going to get the Oilers far, no matter how many may or may not have been his fault. At the end of the day, goaltenders are paid to stop the puck and he hasn’t been able to do it well.
Their last four games have been nothing short of eventful. 9-5 loss to Calgary, 6-1 win over Arizona, 4-3 win over LA, and a 6-5 nailbiter last night.
“I think we’re at the time of year where we’re at, other teams are going to have good moments and make their push as well,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft. “There are lessons to be learned in all of those games and we’re addressing that with our players as we weave our way down the stretch. During this schedule, we want to see growth.”
While growth has been coming, the Oilers have also been forced into some bend-but-don’t-break style of games and those are quite simply going get even tougher and tighter as the playoffs come near.
“When you’re scoring goals, you’re going to be (putting) in five, six goals like we did tonight, you want to keep the puck out of your net,” said Zach Hyman after a night that saw him score the Oilers’ first two goals. “You’re not going to stop scoring goals but things are going to tighten up. It’s hard to score goals: it’s hard to score goals in the regular season, it’s hard to score goals in the playoffs.
“We’ve got to be able to play in those tight games, those 2-1, 1-0 games, and we got to play in those 6-5 games Because you do see it sometimes. Not often, but you do in the playoffs. You got to be able to play in tight games.”
No matter how you cut it, the Oilers goaltending continues to be a major issue for this club. Sure, the Oilers have been able to put together a good stretch going 9-2-1 that’s included nine in a row at home.
They’ve snagged some big wins, and they’ve gotten some poor goaltending with a team save percentage of .895 over that time. In Smith’s last 10 games, he’s given up 32 goals posting a .880 save percentage. In Mikko Koskinen’s last 10, he’s also given up 32 goals and a .893.
In a league where the average save percentage sits around .908, the Oilers just haven’t gotten that from either of the two this season.
This, all the while Stuart Skinner (who has a .913 in 13 games this year), continues to rip up the American Hockey League. In 26 AHL games, he’s posted four shutouts, a 2.28 GAA, and a .919 save percentage — second, fourth and eighth in the league, respectively.
Don’t forget that after the league’s deadline Ken Holland expressed he was okay with where the team was at in net.
“When both are healthy, I’m comfortable with the goaltending,” said Holland. “For me, I’m comfortable that when we got the tandem together, that they give us good goaltending.”
Since then? The Oilers team save percentage has been .882 ranking 24th in the league and well below that aforementioned .908 mark.
Facing adversity is never a bad thing for teams still trying to find their way, but how can the Edmonton Oilers realistically expect to have any level of success in the playoffs with Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen in net?

What they’re saying…

Blues rally after trailing 4-1, but fall in OT of game in which Binnington is yanked
EDMONTON, Alberta — After the Blues’ second win in three days over the Vancouver Canucks, veteran David Perron consciously pumped the breaks. The Blues needed to put together four or five consecutive wins, Perron cautioned, before they could start to feel like they had something going.
Well, they’re not there yet. Their winning “streak” ended at two games Friday at Rogers Place. With leading scorer Jordan Kyrou still out of the lineup because of illness, and Jordan Binnington struggling mightily in net, the Blues rallied from a 4-1 deficit only to lose 6-5 in overtime against the Edmonton Oilers.
At 37-20-10 and adding their 84th point, the Blues still have work to do to clinch a playoff berth. They finished their season series against Edmonton (39-25-5) having lost two of three. They close this trip and play their final Canadian team of the regular season Saturday in Calgary.
For the Oilers, it marked their ninth straight home victory, tying a franchise record. Connor McDavid’s second goal of the evening — and 39th of the season — was the game winner, at the 1:11 mark of OT.
Blues coach Craig Berube didn’t have a lot to say after the game, but made it crystal clear he was not happy with Binnngton, who was pulled from the game with 6½ minutes left in the opening period after allowing his four goal on 13 shots.
When asked to explain what went wrong in that 4-1 first period, Berube replied: “We need saves.”
After a pregnant pause, he was asked if there was anything else to the first period.
“No. Nothing. That was it,” he replied.
When asked how Binnington gets his confidence back, Berube replied: “I don’t know. Play better. I mean, you gotta play better. I don’t know — that’s a tough question.”
Berube conceded that there were mistakes made by the team’s defensemen and forwards in the game, but added: “Mistakes happen in games.”
Read more from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas here.

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@oilersnation.com.

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