Edmonton Oilers bring Skinner back facing elimination in Game 6

Article content

Facing elimination at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, the Edmonton Oilers were going to win or lose with their starting goalie back where he belongs.

Stuart Skinner returned to the Oilers net for the first time since allowing four goals before getting pulled in Game 3. Backup Calvin Pickard started the next two games, going 1-1, as the Vancouver Canucks took a 3-2 lead coming into Game 6 their Western Conference second-round playoff series at Rogers Place on Saturday.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Up to that point, Skinner allowed 12 goals on 58 shots against the Canucks, for a 4.40 goals-against average and a staggering .793 save percentage — well below his regular-season numbers of a 2.69 average and .905 percentage.

“I’m very excited to get back in the net, I’m excited to get to do my job again,” Skinner, 25, said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I got some work in, some solid practices and I got to watch Calvin do his thing.

“He was incredible. He got the job done when he was asked to get put in and he’s been doing that all year for us.”

While Skinner cheered on Pickard to a playoff save percentage of .915, having to watch the past two games unfold from the bench wasn’t the easiest job.

“It was tough just because you want to be in there. But at the same time, I was just ecstatic for Calvin,” Skinner said. “He played incredible, the guys played really well. He got us tied at 2-2 (in the series) and he got his job done.

“Any type of situation like that, it’s difficult. I’ve been working on my mental game for a long time here. It’s just another experience where I got to work on some more stuff mentally. So, being able to kind of throw that frustration down and just be the best teammate that I could possibly be, I had a lot of fun and was able to get my work in. Really good for me.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

The Oilers, of course, were hoping what’s good for the goalie goose is good for the gander, with Skinner’s return prompting the same sort of spark as Pickard’s first playoff start led to in the team.

“A lot of it was strictly competitiveness,” Skinner said of getting his mind focused during his time out of the lineup. “These (Canucks) guys, they go to the net hard, they’ve always got two guys in front of the net that really just battle in front, so it’s my job to push back a bit.

“A lot of guys came up to me and just gave me their support. They all told me I’d get back into the cage at some point here, and that obviously I’m a really important piece in all this. So, I’m not getting too down on myself and just really taking this as an opportunity to get better and work on my game and take some time off.”

Those playing in front of Skinner didn’t need any convincing he was ready for a return to active duty.

“I thought he got back to work, not to say that he wasn’t working hard before, but I saw him watching some video and working hard at practice and stuff like that,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “So, whenever he’s doing that, I expect him to play well.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

But playing well in the regular season is one thing for Skinner, while the playoffs have been another story so far in his young career.

A year ago, Skinner took over the starting job in his rookie season with the Oilers, on the way to an all-star appearance and being voted as a finalist for the Calder Memorial trophy. But he ended up going 5-6 in 12 playoff starts, getting pulled in no fewer than four of those games on the way to a 3.68 goals-against average and .883 save percentage.

Skinner showed he was able to bounce back from a poor performance on the way to a 5-1 series win in this year’s opening round against the Los Angeles Kings. But this series against the Canucks has been less than impressive for the Oilers starter.

“Stu had a couple days to reset, take some time away and evaluate his game and think about some thing,” Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said. “But also spend some time on the ice and working on getting back to finding his game.

“And we’ve seen Stu play unbelievable, really well for us, steal games. Just solid. And he’s been our guy for us all year, so in a situation like this that’s who we want in net.”

E-mail: [email protected]On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Article content