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One More Start

Mikko Koskinen gets the start tonight versus Vancouver. Could it be his last start as an Oiler?

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Columbus Blue Jackets Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers are locked into the playoffs. They’ll open their series against the LA Kings on Monday night at home. The Oilers will look to get a little bit further this year than they did against the Jets in 2021.

We know that the Oilers will be heavily dependent on their forces up front. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will have their hands full, while the defence will hopefully be bolstered with a timely return of Darnell Nurse. In goal? It’ll be Mike Smith. Smith has emerged from an injury filled first half of the season to a ten game hot streak. Barring anything truly weird in the next 72 hours, it’ll be Smith in goal come Monday.

But before that? There’s one more game.

Tonight’s game versus Vancouver is largely inconsequential. It’s the last game of the regular season. It’s a play-through. The Oilers are headed to the playoffs in a couple of days, while the Vancouver Canucks are headed to a 8 o’clock tee times at Northview. Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will be kept out for precautionary reasons prior to Monday’s playoff game versus LA.

In goal for the Oilers? Mikko Koskinen.

It’s the second game in as many nights for Koskinen, who turned aside 40 shots en route to a 5-4 OT win against the Sharks. The win set a career high for Koskinen at 26, and he’s got a chance to make it 27 wins tonight. Whether he shuts the door on Vancouver or ends up allowing six, it’s been a long strange trip for the man from Vantaa, Finland.

Signed what seemed like moments before Peter Chiarelli was relieved as Oilers General Manager, Koskinen got a three year deal after just 27 games played in Edmonton. To say it was a questionable deal is an understatement, especially with Cam Talbot still on the roster. Talbot would be scuttled to Philadelphia later that season, Koskinen would play in 108 games over the next three seasons alongside Mike Smith.

Neither goaltender has grabbed the reins at number one for a long enough period of time.

Right now, Mike Smith’s got the hold on the job, at least until he stops winning. He’s putting up numbers north of .950 on his streak, which is spectacular and should be enjoyed. If Smith can keep up the heat, tonight will likely be the last Edmonton sees of Mikko Koskinen in goal. With Stuart Skinner making a push this year, it will be easy for the Oilers to make the move to the young gun (and his 750K cap hit) in 2022-23. Smith is on board for another season, and that could leave Mikko Koskinen as the odd man out next year.

An NHL GM will likely take a chance on his 26 (or 27) win résumé this offseason. For now, Mikko Koskinen is an Oiler, and these Oilers are playoff-bound.

If we see him in net this postseason, we’ll have a good idea why.