Oilers starting Stuart Skinner in game six vs. Canucks is a bold move with minimal upside

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
1 month ago
As you’ve likely read by now, the Edmonton Oilers plan to start Stuart Skinner for game six at home against the Vancouver Canucks tonight.
Call it a coach’s hunch, a ‘vote of confidence,’ or a clear case of Edmonton’s ‘institutional surrender.’ However you’d like to frame it, the most accurate way to describe it is probably a ‘bad decision.’
Calvin Pickard wasn’t flawless in his two starts in Games 4 and 5, but he was certainly the better of the two goalies. No matter the case, the simple fact is that Pickard gave the Oilers their best goaltending performance of this series when he stopped 32 of 35 shots on Thursday night.
While Edmonton didn’t go on to win that game, the players in front of Pickard were outplayed in every area of the ice. He gave them a chance to win, and that’s yet to happen with Skinner manning the Edmonton crease. Even if the Oilers win tonight, can he also carry them through a do-or-die Game 7 as well? Most people would say there’s no chance.
But even with Skinner returning to the net, the Canucks can’t coast their way to a series victory in Game 6. They’ll need to find the same level of energy that created 30+ shots on goal in Game 5, a benchmark Vancouver has rarely found in these playoffs.
Against Pickard, it took every last shot to snag a victory with 30 seconds to go. The Canucks will need to find that same level of desperation – the “backs against the wall” mentality that’s served them well all season long – to get past an Edmonton team fighting for their playoff lives. Setting the tempo early with shots from all over the ice and turning the play back toward the Edmonton zone at breakneck speed could do a lot of damage to the Oilers’ hopes in record time.
We’ve already been over how to score on Edmonton’s goalies a couple of times throughout this series, but here’s the basic cliff notes for Skinner: the Canucks need to force him to challenge out of his crease with shots from distance off the rush. Skinner routinely has trouble off shots coming from his left-hand side, so not being afraid to shoot from those angles and shooting from the top of the circles on odd-man rushes will be key. Skinner has also had a hard time handling rebounds and cutting off angles in close, so even with the Oilers attempting to prevent chances in close, bringing the puck to the crease will still open up a lot of opportunities.
Skinner’s nerves were present long before Oilers fans and his own coach started to lose faith; now, he’ll potentially be playing for his future in Edmonton. Kris Knoblauch is making a decision that could very well shape the rest of his tenure behind the Oilers bench, a job he only took on in November.
If the Canucks smell the blood in the water, they could have this series wrapped up before the third period. But knowing how this series has played out, expect a nailbiter to the finish and maybe a questionable goal or two on Skinner’s side of the ice.

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