We’ve covered the forwards, we’ve covered the defense and before the Edmonton Oilers square off against the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night, it made sense to cover the goaltenders.
Mikko Koskinen gets the call in net for the Oilers tonight and based on his play so far this season, it makes sense. Koskinen comes into the game with a 2.65 goals-against average versus Cam Talbot’s 3.30. He also holds a .913 save percentage versus Talbot’s .888. He’s played fewer games (8), but that’s enough of a sample size to grab the idea that Koskinen may be the starter moving forward.
Which goaltender has played well? Which hasn’t? Is one a clear starter? Should things change, who should the Oilers move forward with considering both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season?
Cam Talbot, C-
First off, let’s be clear, Talbot’s .888 save percentage is not good enough. Not even close. If the Oilers are counting on him as a starter and he’s to lead them into the postseason and past the first round, that number needs to improve.
His save percentage is a bit better at 5-on-5, which puts him in the middle of the pack which tells us that he’s being killed when the Oilers are down a man. To be exact, his save percentage is .739 when the Oilers are forced to play 4-on-5. While that might speak to the defence in front of him leaking chances against and hanging him out to dry, there’s an argument, just from the eye test, Talbot isn’t making some saves he should be making.
As the season rolls along, Talbot is losing the starting job to his backup that was brought in to push him. With the Oilers outside the playoff picture and trying to find a way to turn around the season, logical thought suggests every game from here on in will including choosing a goalie to start which gives the team the best chance to earn a point. Right now, that goalie isn’t Talbot.
Mikko Koskinen, A
Part of the reason Koskinen gets such a strong grade is that he’s proving to people that his one-year, $2.5 million contract was not a mistake. There were plenty of people who harped on that deal when it was first signed, calling GM Peter Chiarelli dumb for spending so much on a backup when other netminders were out there in the market. Chiarelli said there was interest from other teams, he knew the cost of landing the big Finn from the KHL on a one-year “show me” deal and it’s turning out to have been a wise gamble.
Another reason to rank him how is how quickly he adjusted. His preseason performance was not good but he made the necessary changes to his style, figured out the ice surface differences and has turned into quite the backstop for the team so far this season.
If you look at Koskinen’s numbers, he’s right where he should be if you want to call him a legit NHL starter and he’s outplaying Talbot, earning more and more trust from his coaches and teammates. While it might not be true, there seems to be a sense the Oilers are more comfortable playing in front of him.
Overall Goaltender Assertion
The good news here is that one of the goaltenders has been great while the other has been merely average and needs to improve. The interesting thing here is that it’s not the goaltenders many would have predicted to be giving the performances they are. Talbot has been disappointing while Koskinen has been a shining light for the team. It was supposed to be the other way around if you asked everyone prior to the season starting.
It should make what Edmonton does going forward a question of interest. If Koskinen keeps playing well, what kind of chance will Talbot get to improve his game?
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”