The Edmonton Oilers are playing out of their minds right now.
They are currently (As of Wednesday, January 24) on a 14 game winning streak and are doing everything right. Their best players are doing what they are supposed to do, the team is playing the way their head coach, Kris Knoblauch, wants them to play, and they are back in a playoff spot.
The Oilers are currently third in the Pacific Division, sixth in the Western Conference, and 10th in the league with a record of 27-15-1 for 55 points. While the things mentioned above are certainly reasons why they are winning, there is another area of their game that has greatly improved their defensive play.
The team is doing a much better job of keeping the puck out of their net. A lot of this has to do with the play of their goaltender Stuart Skinner.
Skinner, 25, got off to a slow start this season. He was inconsistent, was allowing soft goals, and did not look all too comfortable between the pipes.
That is no longer the case. As of this writing, Skinner is 22-9-0-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage, and two shutouts.
On Tuesday night, January 23rd, the Oilers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 4-1 for their 14th straight win. For Skinner, it was his 11th consecutive win, which broke Grant Fuhr’s franchise record.
There are several reasons why Skinner is playing so well right now. For starters, the team is playing well in front of him.
His teammates are blocking shots, clearing rebounds, and being smart with the puck in their own zone while also providing a lot of goal support. As of this writing, the Oilers are 11th in the league in goals scored as they have 151 goals in 43 games (3.51 goals per game).
Another reason why Skinner is performing at a high level is because he is keeping things simple. He is controlling his rebounds, not getting caught out of position, and stopping the shots that he should.
This was not the case early in the season. Skinner gave up a lot of juicy rebounds, did not get himself in a good position to stop second chances, if there were any, and he looked like he was fighting the puck.
Skinner’s game has also been extremely consistent. Night after night, his teammates know what they are going to get from him, and that is giving them confidence to go out and focus on what they need to do.
Just look at what Skinner has done over his last five starts:
- January 13th: Stopped 23 of 24 shots in a win over the Montreal Canadiens
- January 16th: Stopped 25 of 27 shots in a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs
- January 18th: Stopped 25 of 27 shots in a win over the Seattle Kraken
- January 20th: Stopped 26 of 27 shots in a win over the Calgary Flames
- January 22nd: Stopped 27 of 28 shots in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets
Lastly, Skinner is having fun playing the game. After his 11th straight win, he expressed as much to the Oilers website writer Jamie Umbach.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Skinner said. “I mean, every single game is so different, right? There are games where it’s been tight, games where we kind of take over, games where other teams take over, so it’s just been a lot of resilience from our group going off the streak and going off my play and everybody’s play.”
Obviously, the Oilers cannot go on winning forever. With that said, if Skinner continues to provide his team with the kind of goaltending he is giving them right now, springtime could end up being a lot of fun in Edmonton.