Edmonton Oilers

Oilers Weekly Goaltending Recap: Pushing for the top of the Pacific Division

The Edmonton Oilers entered the past week staring down a crucial set of games. They played a pair of games each against division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, with the first in each match up coming at home. The games were set to determine if the Oilers would have a chance at home ice and even the Pacific Division title.

As Stuart Skinner has firmly taken the reigns as the Oilers’ number one goalie, he was tasked with facing the Kings in tight match ups against a team that was nearly as hot as the Oilers themselves. The litter of weak teams late in the schedule allowed Jack Campbell to play two games against the Ducks, who have the worst goal differential in the league. Here’s how each game broke down:

Game 76: Skinner starts at home against L.A.

In a crucial game when it comes to the standings, the visiting Kings came into Rogers Place fresh off their first defeat since February 26 against the Calgary Flames topped the California-based squad in their previous game. Joonas Korpisalo became the first Kings goalie to start consecutive games since he was acquired at the deadline, deservedly so, as he has been dominant since his arrival.

Skinner records the first shutout of the year

  • Period 1–15:15: Evan Bouchard breaks up the original pass but it ends up bouncing to Arthur Kaliyev. Skinner does a great job regaining his feet and following the play to make a cradle save and control the rebound.
  • Period 2–15:47: Skinner stays set and settled on angle, turning Quinton Byfield’s backhand as he drives down the slot into an easy save.
  • Period 2–10:11: Skinner bites on the first move from Adrian Kempe but is able to recognize the fake and grab an edge to go back the other way. This save is possible because of how Skinner projects his glove as far as he can at Kempe’s stick blade to cut down the angle.
  • Period 2–8:25: Skinner fights off the first shot from Alex Iafallo that results in a rebound. He does a great job tracking the broken play in traffic, regaining his feet where he can and eventually freezing it.
  • Period 2–2:20: Skinner follows Rasmus Kupari perfectly on angle as he pulls to the middle and fires the shot.
  • Period 2–0:49: Skinner gets extra ice and ends up fighting off a second straight shot with his glove but it’s still relatively easy due to sound positioning and tracking.
  • Period 3–16:43: Skinner has a textbook rotation, sets on the shot then tracks into the save, turning a one-timer into routine save.
  • Period 3–15:22: Skinner goes down for a save, recognizes it’s a pass and stretches out to get a piece of the Byfield shot, also recognizing it popped up and was heading in, and diving back to get that too. It’s an outside the box play that Skinner is able to solve.
  • Period 3–11:38: Skinner makes an easy save on a hard shot due to getting to proper position early.
  • Period 3–3:08: One of the few times where Skinner opens up on a save, but he is able to stretch out far enough to make the same and kick it to the middle away from the back door King.
  • Period 3–1:50: Viktor Arvidsson gets multiple shots at the puck, but Skinner is able to get his pad down and keep moving with the play while ensuring the bottom is sealed.
  • Period 3–1:00: Skinner makes the first save and the rebound gets stuck in traffic but he is immediately rotating and getting over for the second shot due to good tracking.
  • Period 3–0:23: Early rotation from the far post gets Skinner across quickly to get a piece of the one-timer chance.
  • Period 3–0:04: Textbook stick save gets jammed on Mattias Ekholm on the way to the corner but he’s already tracking and rotating to the new position right from contact.

Skinner was excellent, marking the Oilers first shutout of the year. The Kings generated a lot of volume, which made the overall defensive environment look worse than it was. However, when the chances did come, Skinner employed textbook tracking, movement, and positioning to make tough situations look easy. He ended the night stopping all 43 shots he faced, amounting 3.65 xGA.

Game 77: Campbell starts at home against Anaheim

The Ducks had suffered six straight defeats heading into their Saturday night matchup with Edmonton, with the home squad looking to clinch their playoff berth. Anaheim is clearly tanking for phenom Connor Bedard, selling off as many assets as possible over the last calendar year. Former Oiler Anthony Stolarz had been sidelined since mid-February, leaving John Gibson to handle the duties while Campbell got the nod for the Oilers.

Campbell gets his first shuout with Edmonton

  • Period 1–8:29: Trevor Zegras’ shot goes through Frank Vatrano’s legs so Campbell makes a reactionary kick save causing a rebound, but he is able to rotate decently to follow up and get behind the subsequent shots. This play alone resulted in 1.63 xGA.
  • Period 1–7:52: Vinny Desharnais blocks the first shot but Campbell stays sealed on his post and doesn’t shift away, giving up nothing on the subsequent jam play.
  • Period 1–6:42: Nikita Nesterenko gets the pass in the dead angle off the rush but Campbell keeps his shoulders square to the shot which keeps the rebound in a manageable spot. This was a direct improvement on the goal that went off Ekholm in Arizona.
  • Period 1–6:35: Zegras shoots on the ice through traffic, but Campbell doesn’t sink back like he has been guilty of previously.
  • Period 1–0:45: Not a super clean sequence from Campbell but he’s able to be set and square for the shot, allowing him to see the tip to get a piece.
  • Period 2–10:32: Campbell does a great job of opening a window behind the net then shifting and rotating into the blind side on the Zegras one-timer.
  • Period 2–10:26: Campbell gets to the post and just lets it hit him through the dead angle. Overall good patience.
  • Period 2–4:45: Campbell’s best save of the night. Cam Fowler walks into the slot and takes a labelled shot top blocker. Campbell is set and square to the shot then tracks and shifts into the puck trajectory, opening no holes in the process.
  • Period 3–7:06: Nick Bjustad’s turnover ends up in a slot line chance for Mason McTavish. Campbell gets an early and proper rotation then sets on the angle. He’s down a little early but still shifts into the shot without opening up. Another clear improvement off earlier games.
  • Period 3–5:26: Pretty standard pad save into the corner with some traffic. Nice to see him handle traffic routinely.
  • Period 3–6:27: Campbell is fighting through some traffic but makes the pad save with the rebound kicking out to the middle.

There were noticeable improvements in areas that Campbell has struggled in previously, leaving hope that he will be able to build on the progress. Campbell was overall solid to clinch the playoff berth with the second straight shutout.

Game 78: Skinner starts in L.A.

In a rematch from Thursday, the Kings and Oilers matchup shifted to Crypto.com Arena. The Oilers were facing Pheonix Copley this time, with Skinner once again manning the Oilers’ net, coming off the shutout. The Kings had won their back-to-back over the weekend in the Pacific Northwest with wins over the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks. Both teams appeared to be just as hot as they were heading into the first game.

Arvidsson gets the only Kings’ goal of the game

Vincent Desharnais’ rim is picked off by Trevor Moore, who feeds Vicktor Arvidsson for a one-timer from the point. Three different players cross through the shooting lane as the shot is taken, meaning Skinner has little chance of picking up the release or the puck in flight. His only chance would have been shifting further towards the shot but it’s tough to blame the Oilers’ netminder.

There wasn’t a whole lot of offence either way overall, meaning the margin for error in both creases was near none. There was about a five minute segment in the second period where the Kings generated some great rush chances. Skinner was able to come through, providing some huge stops by getting to his position early and tracking into saves, securing another key win for the Oilers.

Game 79 Thread: Jack Campbell starts at Anaheim

The Ducks had played one game since losing 6–0 to the Oilers on Saturday night, pushing the Flames to their limit before losing 5–4 on Sunday night. However, John Gibson would not be making his second straight start against the Oilers as he was out with an injury. Instead, Lukas Dostal would be making his second start against the Oilers on the year. The rookie had won his start in Edmonton during December, in addition to spelling Gibson in relief in the previous matchup against the Oilers before playing the Flames on Sunday.

Terry gets the only goal against the Oilers that night

Brett Kulak turns the puck over on the exit to Adam Henrique. Henrique’s pass gets partially broken up but Simon Benoit is able to boot it over to Troy Terry before heading to the net. Benoit ties up both Oiler defenders, who are all used as a screen by Terry, before he rips it top corner. Campell’s best chance of making the save would seem him project his glove out forward and elevated so it could cut off more net but it’s tough to fault Campbell without a proper sightline.

What does the rest of the season look like?

The Oilers have three games remaining. They will visit the San Jose on Saturday April 8 for a matinee affair with the Sharks. Their road trip will then see them head to the mile-high city to face the Colorado Avalanche on April 11 in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Final.

As of Friday morning, the Oilers sit three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead while Edmonton sits three points ahead of the Kings in the battle for home ice. The Oilers hold the tiebreaker over every team in the division, so a tie in points would see the Oilers have the advantage in the standings.

The Kings play the Avalanche, Canucks, and Ducks while the Knights play a tougher schedule with matchups against the Dallas Stars and Kraken twice. Vegas needs four points to secure a division title, while the Oilers need three points to secure home ice advantage.

The Sharks have won three of their last 14 games, and have struggled immensely since they dealt their best forward in Timo Meier at the trade deadline. The only reason the previous game went into overtime between the two clubs was because Campbell had one of his worst games of the year.

The Avalanche are on the completely opposite side of the spectrum, winning six of their last seven. The Avs have had an injury riddled season but have recently started getting healthy as they prepare for the playoffs and battle for the Central Division and Western Conference titles. However, in a set back, Cale Makar was sidelined Thursday with a lower body injury that will keep him out indefinitely. Colorado will also play a back-to-back in Southern California over the weekend, playing in L.A. on Saturday and in Anaheim on Sunday.

Based on the ample rest time of late, Skinner should be given the starts in San Jose and in Denver, which will help him stay sharp as he approaches his first NHL playoffs while maximizing the points the Oilers should earn. With regards to that last home against San Jose, Campbell should be considered to play the entirety or back half of the game if the game will have no effect on the standings. However, Vegas will be playing after the Oilers on Thursday night, and if the results of the night could tip the division in favour of the Oilers, Skinner should be in the Oilers’ crease until the result of the game is clearly foreseeable.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

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