Koskinen’s First Shutout Since 2020 Highlights Oilers’ Win Over Flyers

The Edmonton Oilers got back into the win column on Tuesday with a big victory over the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 in a game that saw goaltender Mikko Koskinen earn his first shutout since March 5, 2020. The Flyers got their chances, but the Oilers were on pucks and defended any rebounds while getting the big stops and bounces in their favour.

After having the toughest few games of the season in a row and probably the best 1-2-0 stretch they’ve played against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes, they had a much easier opponent in the Flyers who are 3-14-5 over their last 22 games and haven’t won back-to-back games in regulation since mid-December. The Oilers kicked off a new month that sees them have nine games against non-playoff teams and six against teams in a playoff spot.

The Oilers are now 17-0-0 when scoring the first goal this season and are 7-3-0 under Jay Woodcroft. They also continued to get good goaltending from Koskinen and help from their top players.

Koskinen Stepping Up in Goal

Koskinen continues to raise his stock and give the Oilers the goaltending they need and allow them to have a chance to win every game. He is now 7-0-1 in his last eight starts and has a .936 save percentage (SV%) under Woodcroft with a 4.4 GSAx (goals saved above expected) and a shutout.

Connor McDavid,Mikko Koskinen
Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen celebrates with Connor McDavid (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

In comparison, Mike Smith owns a .899 SV%, minus-1.12 GSAx in six starts. So, at the very least, Koskinen should play more, but not overplayed, as the Oilers approach the deadline. Dare I say it, the Oilers should hold onto Koskinen over Smith if they end up making a move for a goaltender.

Related: 3 Reasons Oilers’ Koskinen Deserves More Starts Before Trade Deadline

We’ve seen what happens when Koskinen plays too much over a stretch, but he’s proven to be effective with rest. He ended the night in Philadelphia with 39 saves and his sixth career shutout. He was the difference in the game that was very much a goaltending battle with a formidable goalie in Carter Hart at the other end. Not much more can be said about Koskinen when he’s on his game. When he’s hot, watch out, especially with the Oilers’ offence. The hope is that it can continue and not revert back to a down stretch.

Keith Returns From Injury, Woodcroft Sticks With 7 Defencemen

It was a question going into the game in Philadelphia whether or not Duncan Keith would be ready to go. On top of that, more questions arose as to who was going to be sent down and even if the Oilers were going to continue to run with seven defencemen in the lineup every night.

These were all answered as Keith slotted back into the lineup but was eased in with the coaching staff keeping seven defencemen dressed, four of which play the left side. Nurse still logged a ton of minutes, but the rest of the time trickled down from Keith to William Lagesson to Markus Niemelainen.

Duncan Keith Edmonton Oilers
Duncan Keith, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Within a few games, it seems like it could be a possibility for the Oilers to send Niemelainen back down to the American Hockey League (AHL) like they just did with Philip Broberg to allow him to get the reps he needs. He is just about fully graduated, but Lagesson has really stepped up and played key minutes for the Oilers, including late in this game when they had the lead.

Oilers’ Stars Control Game

Despite the Oilers being outshot 39-32, the top players for the Oilers really controlled the game, creating good chances and filling the scoresheet. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Evander Kane, and Darnell Nurse highlighted the usage for Woodcroft, all playing over 22:30 minutes led by Hyman who logged the most ice time of any player in the game.

McDavid and Draisaitl led in points by each scoring a goal and assisting on each other’s tallies. Hyman also added an assist and Kane was right there banging away on the second goal that was awarded to Kailer Yamamoto.

McDavid, Draisaitl, and Hyman also combined for 17 of the team’s 32 shots, helping the power play get on the board in the first and solidifying the game with an empty-net goal. Each of the four forwards mentioned had over six minutes on the power-play during the game and carried the load for a depleted Oilers forward unit.

Oilers’ Brad Malone played in his 200th career game, a milestone he waited almost three years to hit after playing his last NHL game in April of 2019. The next game for the Oilers comes on Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks in another easier matchup that they must win in order to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.

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