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In Praise Of Stuart Skinner

No Skinner? No chance.

Edmonton Oilers v Calgary Flames Photo by Leah Hennel/Getty Images

Tuesday’s match against the Calgary Flames saw the Oilers escape Calgary with a 2-1 regulation victory. Connor McDavid scored his 31st goal of the season, Tyson Barrie had the other tally for the Oilers. The Oilers managed just 22 shots all game, it was Stuart Skinner that turned aside 46 of 47 Calgary shots en route to Edmonton’s victory.

As Oiler fans, we’ve gotten spoiled watching Connor McDavid these last eight seasons. There’s better than a ghost of a chance that he finishes with sixty or more goals this season, it seems pedestrian with how easy he makes it look at times. While McDavid is sitting atop the NHL with 31 goals and 67 points, Leon Draisaitl isn’t far behind with 21 goals and 57 total points. Both of these players ensure that the Oilers are atop the NHL in goal scoring. It’s the back end that’s been trouble all season.

In goal, it’s been Stuart Skinner season. Jack Campbell was signed to a multi-year deal in the offseason, and he was expected to settle into the number one position upon his arrival in Edmonton. To say he’s struggled mightily is an understatement. Fifteen games into his season, Campbell has put up a meagre .876 SV%. His GAA is over 4, he’s allowed 57 goals in 400 minutes of play. The Oilers are hoping his game comes around sooner than later.

As much difficulty as Campbell’s had, Stuart Skinner has been almost a complete opposite. It’s great news for the Oilers, as they’d probably have about wins twelve wins this season without him.

As of this writing, Skinner has 22 games played so far this season. Prior to this season, he suited up in just 14 NHL games over the course of two years. And? He’s running the show for the Oilers in the net. An especially hot October has cooled in recent weeks, but it’s clear that Skinner should own the lion’s share of the starts for now. Skinner is tied with Juuse Saros at .929 SV% 5 on 5, good for twelfth in the league among goaltenders with at least 10 GP.

Skinner’s eleventh win was a 46 save effort over Calgary on Tuesday night. Though the Oilers have had significant trouble on the power play (and on defence in general), Skinner has kept Edmonton in games they likely would have been blown out in. Edmonton has allowed 40 or more shots in six of Skinner’s 22 games played so far, they allowed 50 shots in a game against the Capitals earlier in December. The Oilers are allowing a bunch of shots, eighth most in the league on average. Skinner is turning aside nearly 93% of them while 5 on 5, while Jack Campbell can’t crest the 89% marker.

Ken Holland made a smart move earlier this month when he extended Skinner to a three year deal valued at 2.65MM per. The deal will last through the 2025-26 season, which will take Skinner to UFA. The Oilers will need to make a big decision whether they want to pay Skinner or pursue other avenues. It’s a good bet on the local kid and a smart move by Holland.

HOW BIG HAS SKINNER BEEN?

He’s been pretty big, and it looks like he’s just getting started. Skinner has had a few off games, but he’s just 24 and with under 40 career games, is just getting started in a budding career. At times, he’s been a showstopper for the Oilers this year. He’s been big. Really big. I don’t know how many wins the Oilers would have if they were yielding a goal on every eight shots, but you can bet it’s not many.

The Oilers play Seattle and Winnipeg in the next 36 hours. You can bet that Skinner will start at least one. With Edmonton teetering on a wild card position tonight, two (or four) points in the standings would be a great big push into the new year. Until Campbell finds his game, the Oilers will go as far as Skinner will backstop them. Let’s hope it’s pretty far.