The Edmonton Oilers entered last week coming off a loss on March 11 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a mistake filled outing for the Oilers, but was understandable considering it was the last game of a tough road trip against a great team. Their schedule lined up with home games on March 14 and 16 against the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars before travelling to Seattle for a matinee showdown with the Kraken on Saturday, March 18.
That was followed by home games on March 20 against the San Jose Sharks, and March 22 against the Arizona Coyotes. Stuart Skinner ended up starting four of the five games, after starting the final three games of the preceding road trip, while Jack Campbell played the games against the Sharks. Here’s how each game broke down:
Game 68: Skinner starts at home against the Ottawa Senators
The Sens entered the game in the midst of a slump. They had gone 3–3 since acquiring Jakob Chychrun at the trade deadline, but had gone on a slide of late including a loss to the stripped out version of the Chicago Blackhawks. They were also in tough when it came to their goaltending situation with Anton Forsberg being sidelined for the season with two torn MCLs that occurred during the Oilers previous matchup in Ottawa, while Cam Talbot deals with a mid-body injury. This left the Senators leaning on the younger Mads Soogard and Kevin Mandolese as their backstops, meaning the Oilers would be able to rely on some run support in the game.
Tkachuk scores on the powerplay
The Senators were running a lot of their set plays on the powerplay through the low guy. The puck gets down to Brady Tkachuk so Skinner responds by going down, respecting the jam play. Skinner gets a proper rotation to Tim Stutzle when the pass is attempted and would have had a chance if it did get through. However, Vincent Desharnais’ skates are perpendicular to the net, providing a perfect deflection to bank it in. This chance had an expected goal value of 0.104.
Stutzle’s short handed goal
Evan Bouchard’s missed shot ends up with four Oilers attacking low in the zone before a Travis Hamonic pass results in a two-on-one coming back. Bouchard slides at an open angle which allows the pass to still get around his legs and leaves Stutzle wide open and unpressured. The pass does not miss the net by a wide enough margin to the point that Skinner plays it like a missed shot, expecting to recover to the corner on a miss rather than the push across needed for the pass. A better read on the play to pick up the pass, or recognizing the wide shot and begining to follow it across early could have resulted in a save but it’s tough to blame Skinner on this one. This chance had an expected goal value of 0.118
Stutzle gets another one
Drake Batherson outmuscles Derek Ryan coming out of the corner and feeds Stutzle with a one handed pass. Desharnais gets stuck in no man’s land, screening Skinner while allowing the unchecked and unblocked one-timer off the post. Skinner get to ideal position, but is unable to see the release or the trajectory so he can’t react in time. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.129.
Game 69: Skinner starts at home against the Dallas Stars
This was setting up to be a statement game for the Oilers. They were facing the Stars, who led the Western Conference at the time. The last time the Stars visited Rogers Place, it had been a debacle of a loss for Jack Campbell, including the infamous goal that went through his glove. However, Skinner was being given the chance to build on the win he earned in Dallas in their most recent match up.
Rookie Johnston gets a goal
The play started with a horrible change from the forwards, which allows Dallas to breakup the ice on the rush. Miro Heiskanen pushes the defence back before dropping it to Wyatt Johnston. Johnston shoots as Cody Ceci bails out the shooting lane, which obscures the initial release. Skinner fights it off but can’t control the rebound, which leaks into the slot. The Oilers have Dallas outmanned here but can’t clear the puck, which ends with Skinner making a second and third save before it is finally depositing into the net. The result is relatively baked in once the first rebound comes out, meaning an initial freeze is all Skinner could have done. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.275.
Overall Skinner was victorious
Skinner played an excellent game against a tough team. He finished 1.63 goals saved above expected in what would be a 94th percentile performance compared to the defensive environment simulated 1000 times. Skinner has been unlucky when it comes to goals support during his appearances, but his performance and the team’s went hand in hand here, with the 24-year-old adding to the Oilers’ margin of victory for the ninth time this year. This was exactly the type of performance you’d want to see from the newly anointed starter heading into the stretch with a divisional matchup heavy schedule
Game 70: Skinner starts on the road against the Seattle Kraken
This was an extremely important divisional match up for both teams. Seattle entered the contest just one point behind the Oilers with a game in hand. The winner would sit in the third Pacific Division playoff spot while the loser would end up in the first Western Conference wild card spot. Seattle had chased Skinner in their last matchup in Edmonton, but the rookie had beaten them just before New Years on the road. This game also marked the fourth time Skinner had started in Seattle in his partial two years in the league.
Schwarts ties it for the Kraken
Fellow Calder contender Matty Beniers looks like he’s going to spin and shoot, but instead he dumps it to Vince Dunn in the slot for the one timer, which evenetually deflects in off Jaden Schwartz. Skinner goes down when he sees the spin, looking for the shot while covering the lower part of the net, but by the time he sees the pass he’s out of position. It’s a tough play because of the layers of traffic, but if Skinner had properly rotated and pushed to the middle once he identified the pass, he’d have given himself a better chance at making the save and would have more net covered when compared to the stretched-out glove that ultimately gets beat. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.206.
Eberle banks a five-hole
The puck is bouncing around, but Jordan Eberle gets some time in the slot as the bouncing puck settles with Bouchard on the wrong side. The former Oiler walks in and beats Skinner five hole. Skinner is taking more ice as the shot comes but because he never sets his feet. As a result, he ends up falling back on his heels as he goes drops to the butterfly to seal the ice, which jams his pads and leaves the five hole open. If he sets earlier, Eberle might have more room to a pick a corner, but he would have to make that shot and Skinner would still have a chance to react compared to this result, where the puck ends up going through him. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.058.
Bjorstrand gets one past Skinner
Mattias Janmark turns the puck over on an offensive rush and the forwards change, leading to Seattle rush chance. There’s a miscommunication on who has who, and Leon Draisaitl cheats to the strong side of the ice, leaving Mattias Ekholm to try covering two guys low. Once the puck gets to Oliver Bjorkstrand, the recent aquisition is closing late on the player, meaning that his block attempt doesn’t cover much and he partially takes away Skinner’s eyes. It’s a good shot that beats Skinner from a good spot and a slot line pass, with there not being much technically to fix on the play. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.045.
Tolvanen gets a goal in the last minute
The game is already decided at this point, so the Oilers end up coasting around the defensive zone. Jamie Oleksiak walks in low and feeds an open Eeli Tolvanen while two Oilers watch him. Tolvanen gets a one-touch shot off far side from behind the net front battle, where Skinner doesn’t see it or react until it’s already by him. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.152.
Matinees are not the Oilers best
In what seems to be a matinee tradition, the Oilers did not play their strongest game in Seattle. Skinner wasn’t his best either, but several key stops early to allow the Oilers to build a lead resulted in a win. The netminder finished at 0.29 goals saved below expected, meaning he performed just below what his environment would predict. However, when this workload is simulated 1000 times, four goals would fall in the 51st percentile, meaning there was a skew towards high danger chances which increase the variability of outcomes.
Game 71: Campbell starts at home against the San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks had struggled of late, losing their last six games with dreadful underlying numbers. The team been struggling immensely on the ice, particularly since star forward Timo Meier was dealt to the New Jersey Devils. They were also fresh coming off the controvery of James Reimer sitting out warm up due to his refusal to wear the Pride warm up jerseys. With everything working aginst the Sharks, it seemed like a natural spot to spell Skinner with Jack Campbell.
Disallowed goal one
Campbell actually makes a good rotation to Tomas Hertl receiving the pass, and is set to regain his feet and set on the shot. The problem happens when e then inexplicably settles back into his butterfly on his heels into a slide. This gives him a moving platform and makes himself small which plays into the fact he opens up on the reaction to his blocker side.
Barbanov gets the first of the game
Hertl shoots from outside the dots and above the circles, which would normally be a pretty easy shot, but Campbell is late to react even with his feet set, resulting in a rebound that spits out into the slot. Campbell then counter rotates (when his upper body moves the opposite direction of where the goalie need to go) on the rebound, pulling himself away from the puck. This is followed by what looks like a half pad stack, with his lead leg coming up from the ice, the trail leg tucking underneath and his blocker falling back toward the net as the shot beats him. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.178.
Second disallowed goal
Erik Karlsson feeds Andreas Johnsson with a pass in the high slot, with multiple layers of traffic between the latter and the net. Campbell is already in post-integration, so he’d be sliding out or pushing to his feet. However, his line takes him on a trajectory beyond the crease before he gets interfered with, whereas a proper line would take him deeper in the crease. He continues past the angle, and ends up covering space beyond the net to the point that the initial shot was heading wide before it deflected in.
Lorentz ties the game
Steven Lorentz gets in for a breakaway and Campbell makes the pad stop. In a proper butterfly with a goalie’s weight forward and moving towards the puck, the face of the pad will be facing the puck and direct the rebound outwards. However, Campbell makes a kick save which kicks the puck straight up in the air, while simultaneously pushing him away from the puck and falling back. This means he’s unable to catch the puck before Lorentz can bat the rebound in. This goal had an expected goal value of 0.480.
Karlsson gets one past Campbell
The pick kicks free to Karlsson in the slot, and Campbell is already down even though the the pass is being received on the backhand, partly due to his wide stance. Campbell’s next move from his butterfly is to the short side, which leaves the far side deke wide open for Karlsson. This goal had an xG value of 0.359.
Karlsson gets his second of the game
All of Barabanov’s body language indicates that he’s going to be passing to the middle but Campbell doesn’t shoulder check, which means when the pass goes through, he’s expecting it to go to the high point where Karlsson would normally be. Campbell ends up seeing Karlsson at the last minute as he elevates in his stance for his original push to the point, then immediately drops into a narrow butterfly on his heels before the puck beats him to the far side blocker post. This goal had an xG value of 0.051.
Ceci bails out Campbell
Campbell is still moving to his left as the pass goes to his right, meaning he’s still moving as the shot is released. This results resulting in him falling back which produces an easy rebound that Campbell is able to get a piece of before Ceci bails him out from the goal line.
Third disallowed goal
San Jose breaks in on a 2–1 with a slot line pass to Noah Gregor. Campbell immediately counter-rotates and opens up, with his chest falling forward and his pad and arms reaching back towards the post, which means he simply doesn’t have access to get back to the puck.
Campbell had a poor performance
Campbell finished with -0.29 GSAx on 3.71 xGA, which is high for a single game, particularly for the Oilers since the calendar turned to 2023. This resulted in a net 52nd percentile performance. However, this is masked by three overturned goals, two posts, and stoppable goals. Adding back the two offside goals that had nothing to do with the goalie, Campbell would fall to around -2 GSAx and a 20th percentile performance.
Game 72: Skinner starts at home against the Arizona Coyotes
At the start of the year, this game looked like an easy win. The Arizona Coyotes would be tanking for Connor Bedard, and would be on the second of a back to back after playing in Winnipeg the night before and being at home for almost a full month previously. However, this match up was looking like anything but. The Coyotes were 6–1–2 in their previous nine games and had played the Jets extremely tough in their last game.
After the unsettling performance from Campbell on Monday, what looked like another spot where Campbell could provide some rest from Skinner was no more, with the rookie stepping between the pipes to help ensure two points.
Moser gets a powerplay goal
Kane is playing the drop pass instead of covering his side of the ice, which leaves the three remaining killers rotating for coverage. This let Matis Maccelli walk in while Janis Moser is open on the back door. Skinner sees the unpressured release and plays it like a shot but doesn’t recognize the backdoor option. The only thing he could do different was make a different read which takes him back to the far post. This goal had an xG value of 0.249.
Keller gets one in
Bouchard turns the puck over trying to go D to D to Mattias Ekholm. Nick Schmaltz feeds Keller in the slot who isn’t covered by Nurse. Keller gets a chip shot backhand off just inside the far post. Skinner overplays to the short side as he’s following Keller’s path as he falls, pulling him off the angle. The backhand is a tough shot to read naturally, but if he’s on angle he’d have a better shot.
Keller scores his second
Nurse gets beat to the dump in then chases up the boards, leaving Ceci to cover Barrett Hayton and Keller. He does neither, taking Keller initially before bailing for Hayton, where his support is going towards. The pass ends up going across the crease for a tap in. Skinner is down on his post as Hayton has an easy jam play. When the pass goes across he actually gets a good rotation, but his first reaction is to open his blocker and reach with his paddle. If he stretches with his blocker and pad, he’d have a better chance of making the save
Skinner fought a good game
Skinner finished the game with -1.04 GSAx which was a 30th-percentile performance. However, this game painted a good example of where the public xG models break down. Arizona generated little quantity overall but was able to create some quality chances when they did get shots off, ultimately scoring on three royal road chances. Skinner looked like he was fighting it a bit right from warm up, which might have been in part due to the late start, but I’d expect him to bounce back in his next game.
Next week preview
The Oilers are set to play three games before the next recap. They’ll host the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday before visiting Sin City on Tuesday on the second half of a back to back which begins with a rematch against Arizona in Tempe.
The Knights head into the Saturday game on a three game win streak, topping Calgary by a 3–2 score on Thursday night. They looked like they were set to get a boost with Logan Thompson returning from injury, but Skinner’s partner at the All-Star game left the game against the Flames in the third, appearing to reinjure his groin. As it seems like the Oilers have decided to make Skinner the guy, I’d expect him to start both games against the division foe.
Vegas currently sits atop the Pacific Division standings with 96 points, trailed by the Kings with 92 points and the Oilers with 90 points, with Vegas and Edmonton having ten games remaining while the Kings have one game in hand. In a sense the Oilers control their own fate, as they play both teams above them twice, but if the Oilers have any hope of winning the division or securing home ice in the first round, they will likely need to win at least three if not four of those head-to-head matchups. It would only make sense to use their best option in goal for those games, which appears to be Skinner at this point.
Before the San Jose game, there was a decent chance Jack Campbell would be playing the Coyotes for the second time within a week. He was passed over for the game at home, but he would project to be the starting goalie in Mullet Arena on Monday night. The Coyotes have had an extremely home heavy schedule as of late as Arizona State’s hockey team wrapped up their season and have taken full advantage of their home ice advantage, going 20–11–3 at home. As we saw on Wednesday, the Coyotes are playing a pesky brand of hockey with a suboptimal roster led by some skilled players like Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, so this game won’t be a cake walk by any means, but the start from Campbell will be necessary due to the schedule.
All stats are based off Evolving Wild’s Expected Goal Model
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire