Oilers Sticking With Goaltending Rotation After Tough Outing

Koskinen and Smith

Mikko Koskinen faced four shots on Thursday night in his most recent start against the Vancouver Canucks. He made zero saves. After smashing his stick on the goal post following the fourth goal, Koskinen was removed from the game, forcing Mike Smith in to mop up the final two and a half periods.

Even after a disastrous outing for Koskinen, and an unexpected night of work for Smith, the goaltending rotation for coach Dave Tippett won’t be changing.

“We’ll stick with Smith (Saturday). We’ve got a plan in place,” Tippett told the media following practice on Friday. “We want to make sure both guys are playing before the end of the year here. Koskinen’s played well for us. He had a tough night last night but he’s played well. We’ll stay with our plan. We don’t know when the playoffs will start just yet, so you’re kind of judging when that day will be. We’ll make sure our guys are up and running before that.”

Although many are calling for Koskinen’s time in Edmonton to come to an end after Thursday’s performance, the fact of the matter is he has been solid for the club. Koskinen stepped up early in the season when Mike Smith went down with an injury. On top of that, Koskinen delivered a .917 save percentage in 2019-20, clearly the superior of the two options.

This season, Smith has been the superior option, while Koskinen has posted a pedestrian .900 save percentage in 24 games. He’s been solid since Smith returned, however, posting a .914 save percentage in February, a .902 mark in March, and a .950 in April. He’s been a completely different goalie since Smith returned, Thursday night’s debacle aside.

The other option to backup Mike Smith? Alex Stalock, who hasn’t played a game since August and who missed considerable time dealing with post-COVID-19 issues back in the winter.

“Since Schmiddy’s come back, both of them have played well,” Tippett added. “Our team didn’t play well early in the game and then he had a couple he’d probably like back but if you look at the games before that, he’s played solid for us. Our goaltending hasn’t been an issue for us at all. Tough night (Thursday) night but you move on and prepare for the playoffs.”

Fans are panicking over the outing, but Tippett won’t rock the boat. The veteran coach will maintain the plan laid out for the season’s final four games. The likely consists of two starts each for Smith and Koskinen.

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