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Do I Turn To You (Again)?

Mikko Koskinen kept the Oilers in today’s 4-3 win over the Panthers. Should the Oilers go against the odds and start him tomorrow?

Edmonton Oilers v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

The Oilers emerged victorious in today’s matchup versus the Florida Panthers. Powered by a Derek Ryan hat trick and a power play goal from Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers’ took a 4-3 victory over the NHL’s best team. The loss was Florida’s third straight, the Oilers picked up two big points in their quest to keep pace with the Pacific playoff clubs. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left today’s game with an upper body injury, further tossing a wrench into the lines. But, a win’s a win. Count ‘em.

You know who had a damn good game? Mikko Koskinen.

Koskinen turned aside 44 of 47 total Florida shots today, some saves were of the spectacular variety. Koskinen’s first period might have been his finest period all season, stopping 14 of 16 shots. The Oilers ended the first period down by just a goal thanks to Koskinen keeping it close.

An outstanding performance for Koskinen helped secure two points for the Oilers.

The Oilers don’t get much time to enjoy it, as they’re back in action against the Hurricanes tomorrow. As much as it goes against my pretty staunch position of not playing goaltenders two nights in a row, the Oilers might want to think about playing Koskinen again tomorrow night.

BUT WAIT

I know, I know, I know. You never play a goalie twice in two nights. The Oilers might want to make an exception tomorrow. Here are a few reasons why.

  • Mikko Koskinen hasn’t played very much as of late. Yeah, I know. He faced nearly two games worth of shots in today’s game, but it’s his first start in a week. He did fill in to relieve Mike Smith in Edmonton’s loss to the Wild, but Koskinen has started exactly two games in the month of Februrary. Compare this to Mike Smith, who has started seven.
  • Mike Smith’s results have been poor since returning from injury. In seven games since returning from a partially torn tendon in his hand, Mike Smith has allowed four goals in four out of seven games. He had two very good games against LA and NYI, and a game somewhere in the middle versus Anaheim. Smith’s SV% since returning? .882, which is just a bit lower than his season average of .891. It’s tough to mask those numbers unless you’re consistently scoring five or more goals every night.
  • Edmonton’s next team after Carolina is Philadelphia. If the Oilers haven’t called Stuart Skinner up to the club by Tuesday, I’d feel a whole lot better about starting Mike Smith against the Flyers than I would against Carolina. Smith is struggling, and I think he’s got a fighting chance against the Flyers. I’m not so sure about a struggling Smith against the Metro division leaders.
  • Koskinen is playing well right now. Like Smith, Koskinen has struggled at various points of the season. Right now, he’s the hotter hand. In two games? That might change. Today was a really good game for Koskinen and he’s seeing the puck really well. Given the choice of starting a guy who got pulled after yielding four goals on seven shots in his last start or a guy that just had a very good sixty minutes, I choose the second option.

I’d like to see Mikko Koskinen for another game, which breaks my hard stance against playing the same goalie in back-to-back games. If Smith gets the nod and turns out a clunker, I just don’t know what the team can do short of a trade. Stuart Skinner is playing lights out right now Bakersfield, and that’s probably the easiest fix. With Skinner in action tonight, it’s one of Smith or Koskinen tomorrow.

This time, the Oilers ought to buck conventional wisdom against the Hurricanes and play the hot hand.