In today’s goalie news, we’ll discuss Mikko Koskinen’s shutout on home ice, Linus Ullmark’s homecoming loss in Sweden, and more.
Koskinen Shines at Home
For the Edmonton Oilers to have a bright future, Koskinen must improve from a poor 2018-19 season. The contract former general manager Peter Chiarelli handed him on his way out the door could become an anchor to the franchise otherwise. But early indications suggest that he might be able to recover his form from early last season and salvage his future.
Splitting time with Mike Smith, whom the Oilers brought in as a free agent in the offseason, Koskinen has looked strong, posting average or better numbers across the board. He is 5-1-1 with a .917 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.46 goals against average (GAA). He also has 2.22 goals saved above average (GSAA), a strong number, and a huge improvement from his minus-6.21 GSAA last season.
Friday night’s home matchup with the New Jersey Devils was Koskinen’s best performance of the season. Though the Devils had eight high danger chances and 2.17 expected goals (xG) according to Natural Stat Trick, he remained the proverbial brick wall. He stopped all 29 of the Devils’ shots, including four on the power play and seven from P.K. Subban, who has collected just five points with his new club.
Koskinen is still just beginning his three-year deal with an average annual value of $4.5 million. It will take a lot more than one shutout and a strong month to prove that he’s worth it, but at least he is on the right track, as are the division-leading Oilers as a whole.
The NHL’s Global Series is a big success in a lot of ways. But one of the most exciting parts about it is watching European players return for an NHL game on their home soil. The series between the Buffalo Sabres and the Tampa Bay Lightning began on Friday in Sweden and features a number of Swedish players, including Ullmark, Victor Hedman, and Rasmus Dahlin. Thanks to head coach Ralph Krueger, Ullmark got to start the first game of the series.
Unfortunately, Ullmark’s evening didn’t unfold as planned. The two teams played a close matchup, and he played well, stopping 31 shots, but it wasn’t enough to put his team ahead. The Lightning won Game 1 of the series 3-2. Still, Ullmark wasn’t shy about sharing what the moment meant to him:
Standing there during the anthem was big for me. It was a very humbling experience, one of those one-of-a-kind moments I’ll always cherish for the rest of my life. Sadly, we couldn’t bring it home tonight. We’ve just got recharge our batteries for tomorrow.Linus Ullmark on his start in Sweden
The Lightning and Sabres will meet again on Saturday afternoon (evening in Stockholm) for the final game of the Global Series. Carter Hutton, Ullmark’s backup, will likely get the start. But winner or not, the series was a huge success for Ullmark and the NHL.
Goalie Gram: Binnington Bloopers
When you’re a defending Stanley Cup Champion and Calder Trophy finalist having your best week on the young season, it’s okay to smile once in a while. It’s even okay to make a mess, which is exactly what the St. Louis Blues’ Instagram account showed Jordan Binnington doing on Friday.
Water bottle mishaps notwithstanding, Binnington has had a big week. He is 3-0-0 in his last three starts with a .950 SV%, a 1.64 GAA, and 4.57 GSAA. He also sparked some controversy when he noted that the Calder Trophy loss to Elias Pettersson still stings.
Still, even the most serious goalies make a blooper now and then, and this is certainly one worth chuckling over. Thanks for the laughs, Binner.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.