Maybe I’m nit-picking with not much new happening during the dog days of the NHL off-season, but something Edmonton Oilers’ goaltender Mikko Koskinen said during a telephone interview from Finland this week stuck with me because what he said clashed with what I saw last season.
“At the start, it took quite a lot of time to get used to the rink and all the angles,” Koskinen, who played in 55 games for the Oilers, told Paul Gazzola of EdmontonOilers.com. “Now, it’s easier. I know what to expect and what I need to do better this year. It helps a lot to prepare for the upcoming season.” The interview is here.
If Koskinen, who broke into the NHL in 2010-11 by playing four games with the New York Islanders, better knows what to expect this coming season, that’s good because the Oilers are counting on him to be better. That’s a bet outgoing GM Peter Chiarelli made on the way out the door when he signed Koskinen to a three-year deal worth $13.5 million.
I think it was a bad bet by Chiarelli, but be that as it may, Koskinen will share the goal crease with reclamation project Mike Smith in 2019-2020 unless Ken Holland can come up with another plan. The thing is, taken literally, Koskinen saying it took a lot of time to get used to the rinks and angles doesn’t line up with what I saw.
UP AND DOWN
What I think we can agree on is that the swings in Koskinen’s performance were huge. He was very good or very bad, with not much time in the middle on the way to finishing with a record of 25-21-6, a .906 save-percentage, 2.93 GAA and four shutouts. You can go well beyond those numbers into 5-on-5 save percentage, quality of shots faced and so on, but that’s the big picture.
Save-percentage doesn’t tell the whole story, but when I look at it the swings are obvious. In his 55 games, Koskinen had a .930-or-better save-percentage 21 times. That’s lights out. In those games, Koskinen had 17 wins, two losses and two no-decisions. All told in his 25 wins, Koskinen was .942 with a 1.79 GAA.
On the flipside, Koskinen was under .900 in 27 games. I’m not using .900 as a cut-off point because it’s good enough, but because it’s so bad you have almost no chance to win. In those 27 games, Koskinen had five wins, 18 losses and four no-decisions. All told, in his 21 losses, Koskinen was .855 with a 4.60 GAA.
Win or lose, the book on the six-foot-seven Koskinen last season was that he too often made himself small and that high to the glove side was the place to shoot (as is the case with many goaltenders). That held true from wire to wire in every building. That takes me back to Koskinen talking about getting used to the rinks and the angles after playing on European ice.
Koskinen’s best month for save-percentage was November. After playing just one game in October, winning despite allowing three goals on 27 shots (.889), Koskinen saw action in 10 games in November and went 6-2-1 with a .927. His best month for wins was March (seven in 13 games). Here are all his splits by month:
October: 1 GP 1-0-0 .889
November: 10 GP 6-2-1 .927
December: 9 GP 4-5-0 .907
January: 8 GP 3-4-0 .891
February: 11 GP 3-4-3 .904
March: 13 GP 7-4-2 .901
April: 3 GP 1-2-0 .900
In Koskinen’s first 27 games, he was .930-or-better nine times compared to 12 times in his final 28 games. In his first 27 games, Koskinen was .900-or-under 13 times compared to 14 times in his final 28 games.
Again, there’s more at play than just one statistic like save-percentage, as I’ve noted. The Oilers rode Koskinen hard at the end of the season, playing him in 27 of the final 32 games, so there’s a good chance he was running on fumes. So, while Koskinen might have felt more comfortable as he settled in, it didn’t really manifest itself in the results.
Simply put, I saw a wildly inconsistent goaltender, great in some stretches and awful in others, from wire-to-wire. Maybe that’s just me. We’ll see.