Stuart Skinner Plays Pivotal Role In Oilers’ Stanley Cup Playoff Hopes

Stuart Skinner taking a water break mid-game
Photo: Kevin Neufeld | Inside The Rink

Stuart Skinner stirs the “oil” in Edmonton during the regular season, but can it carry over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

After a rugged start to the season at both ends of the ice for the Edmonton Oilers, they now hold second place in the Pacific Division. This is due, in part, to Connor McDavid finding yet another gear and Stuart Skinner standing tall between the pipes.

Jack Campbell had a short leash after a disastrous 2022-23 season, posting career lows across the board. It ultimately bled over into the 2023-24 campaign after five displeasing starts, he was sent down to the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.

Since the demotion of the 32-year-old goaltender, Skinner, at 25, has taken over the starting role for the Oilers. Albeit that things looked bleak in the early going for the Edmonton native, — now in his second full season in the National Hockey League — he has been a brick wall so far in the month of March. Skinner has a 5-0-1 mark in his last seven games with a 1.62 goals against average and a .943 save percentage. Three of Skinner’s wins came at the expense of three playoff-contending teams and a division rival in the Los Angeles Kings.

Skinner has quickly become a fan favourite not just in Edmonton, but also around the league — and rightfully so. On the season, the 2017 third-round pick is top-ten in goals against average at 2.57 with a minimum of 30 games played putting him ahead of such stalwart netminders as the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin, Boston’s Linus Ullmark and the Flames’ Jacob Markstrom among others.

This season, Skinner has earned a career-high 30 wins with two shutouts and a 2.57 GAA in 46 starts (just two shy of another personal record) with a save percentage of .907. At the beginning of the year, he struggled as one of the least effective “keepers” in the league in GSAx. In a 180º turnaround, however, now he sits among the league’s best, marking a true testament to how crucial a goalie is to a team — and how quickly that reversal has happened for Skinner and the Oil.

On Wednesday, Skinner carried Edmonton to a 7-2 win over the Washington Capitals. In doing so, he turned aside 23 shots, six of which were at the hands of “The Great Eight”—Alex Ovechkin—including a highlight-reel sprawling glove save. Despite the two early goals, Skinner locked in and was sharp afterward.

“It’s pretty cool to stop the greatest goal-scorer of, potentially, all-time in the future here. But I thought he played a phenomenal game yesterday”

Stuart Skinner told the media following Thursday’s practice.

Come playoff time, goaltenders are most heavily relied on and can be the difference makers in a tight best-of-seven series, which the Oilers were often exposed to during the Mike Smith era.

Skinner is no stranger to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, having started in 12 postseason contests in 2022-23. However, the lights may have been too bright, with a 5-6-0 record, a 3.63 GAA, and a .883 Sv% in those 12 games. This time, Skinner and company are looking for a different outcome, pushing to come out of the Western Conference and into the Stanley Cup Final, something the organization hasn’t been able to do since 2006.

With the Oilers having structured goaltending heading into the final weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, there is no reason why it can’t lead to an extensive Cup run.

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