Stu Skinner gets Edmonton Oilers' net back for must-win Game 6

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Playoff Game Day 2.6:
Vancouver at Edmonton

The decision has been made, and not all fans of the Edmonton Oilers are going to like it:

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Skinner 1

Coach Kris Knoblauch is turning back to his #1 goaltender, Stuart Skinner, for the biggest game of the season.

Skinner has had his struggles in the postseason for the second year in a row, especially in the current Vancouver series. He played the first 8 periods, allowing 12 goals on just 58 shots for a miserable .793 save percentage. Backup Calvin Pickard mopped up in Game 3, then played the entirety of Games 4 and 5 as the two teams split a pair of 3-2 decisions.

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Pickard was solid in both games, indeed in the eyes of many he was the reason the Canucks did not win by a much more comfortable margin in Game 5 on what was a rough night for the Oilers skaters.

It was, however, the first time he’d gotten consecutive NHL starts since an emergency recall with Detroit in January of 2022. As strong as he’s been as the backup ‘tender, four starts in a week is not really part of his history, and that’s what it would’ve taken for the Oilers to pull out a series win with the likeable Pickard in the pipes.

My own take was always that Pickard would play until the third loss, then Skinner would get another shot, which is apparently in line with Knoblauch’s thinking as well. Fair to say that Pickard’s strong performance in Game 5 made that decision a lot tougher.

Also fair to say that Skinner’s own performance in the postseason hasn’t inspired a tremendous amount of confidence in Oil Country. He had a pair of excellent games in Los Angeles, otherwise a string of sub-.900 games including the last 4 in a row.

Skinner game log

The Oilers will get a well-rested, highly-motivated version of Stu Skinner against the Canucks tonight. How well that translates to actual performance is the question, and with it a bunch of subsidiary questions that could well hang over both goalie and coach all summer long if things don’t go well.

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Gregor tweet

Meanwhile, big questions hang over the group of skaters, especially Edmonton’s top players who have not seen the ice since Thursday’s loss.

morning skate

Those numbers are familiar to most, but for the record: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane, Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard.

Trouble being, that list of key skaters almost perfectly matches that of Edmonton’s poorest performers in Game 5:

Game score G5

Worth noting that the 7 big names at the bottom of this particular game score card exactly correspond with the top 7 Oilers for ice time in this series. Of particular concern were the bottom 5 names here — a.k.a. the first unit at 5v5 — which generated almost nothing offensively while being lit up for a pair of goals at their own end of the sheet including J.T. Miller’s last-minute game winner.

Let’s face it folks, for the Oilers to have a fighting chance, all of those guys need to be a whole lot better on Saturday night. With rumours of illness and injury rippling through the ranks, extra rest is likely the better choice.

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Sounds like Corey Perry will be coming out of the line-up after 10 pointless games. Who will replace him? Adam Henrique, reportedly ruled out for Game 6 last night, took the skate this morning and is now being tabbed as likely to return to the line-up.

Seravalli tweet

“Not written in sharpie”. Other options include forwards Sam Carrick and Sam Gagner as well as Perry himself. An 11F / 7D alignment is also a remote possibility, perhaps worth considering if Ekholm’s widely-reported illness remains an issue.

Lots of questions hanging over the Edmonton Oilers. The short-term answers will begin to filter in shortly after tonight’s (early! 6pm MDT) puck drop. In the longer term, those questions threaten to hang around all summer.

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