The three goals that were scored on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner weren’t really his fault. But, on Sunday he was pulled ahead of the second period in Game 4 versus the Los Angeles Kings in an attempt to see the Oilers rally and mount a comeback that might have saved their season. The Oilers needed a spark and head coach Jay Woodcroft went to Jack Campbell in an attempt to rile up the roster — which is eventually what happened.
It was a somewhat surprising move considering how little Campbell has played in recent weeks, but he was up to the task, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced and making what could be a couple of potentially season-saving stops.
The question now is, who do the Oilers go to in Game 5?
The Argument For Jack Campbell
To do what Jack Campbell did should not be overlooked. Coming in cold and after he barely played down the stretch of the Oilers’ unbelievable run to finish off the regular season, Sunday was Campbell’s first action in a long time. It was a high-pressure situation, but he looked as poised as can be. If not for Campbell, the Oilers are down 3-1 in the series and a first-round exit is probable.
There have been times that Campbell has looked like a minor-league netminder this season, but most would admit that if he’s hot, Campbell is quite good. And, he was good on Sunday so the question about riding the hot hand is legitimate. The Oilers played well — in fact, their best hockey of the series — in front of him and they’ll need to play that way for at least two more games if they’re to move on in these playoffs. Maybe Campbell has a couple more hot performances in him and maybe the Oilers play well enough to beat the Kings while he’s in goal.
The Argument for Skinner
As stated earlier, getting pulled was less about Skinner and more about sparking the team. Woodcroft needed to do something and while it worked, the logical play would be to get back to what brought you to the dance. Going back to the guy who got the Oilers into the postseason is a fair argument to make, as would arguing Skinner gives Edmonton a better chance to move on. He’s the Oilers’ future starter and Campbell proved his value as a backup. Stick with the status quo.
Skinner’s numbers in the playoffs have been about as good as his numbers in the regular season. It’s been the depth of the team and bad penalties that have caused Edmonton’s issues in their series with the Kings. It seems cruel to bail out the Oilers or punish Skinner for something that is not in his control. He’s been the better of the two netminders throughout the season and he ups their odds of playoff success.
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As one analyst pointed out, Campbell has a tendency to overthink things. There was no time to overthink anything on Sunday. If he’s given days to stew on his starts, do the Oilers see the same Campbell in net? Meanwhile, Skinner is poised an often unrattled.
What the Oilers Might Do in Goal for Game 5
The good news now is that Game 5 is a tie-breaker game, not an elimination one. Woodcroft could go with Campbell to start and if there are issues, make the switch and stick with Skinner down the stretch. A loss in Game 5 doesn’t mean the end of the Oilers’ season and the team has already proven they can come back from a deficit.
If Campbell stays hot (or goes on a run), a streak is sometimes enough to win a Stanley Cup. Should Campbell be starting one, the Oilers take Game 5 and the series lead. However, if he struggles, Skinner goes in and likely gets the rest of the game to help the Oilers come back. He probably gets Games 6 and 7 (if the latter is required).