Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen made 45 saves Saturday as his team settled into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division.
The Oilers played some questionable hockey through the lion’s share of their Saturday contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets and wandered out with a 4-1 victory because they found twine thrice in the last four and a half and because their 6’7 tender was a beast.
Prior to that, Columbus and Edmonton battled back and forth, even as the Oilers held an early 1-0 lead thanks to Alex Chiasson’s goal about three minutes into the first. Following that, not a creature was stirring until 15:29 of the third when Caleb Jones doubled it up for the home team. Connor McDavid made it 3-1 shortly after.
Then Columbus’ Gustav Nyquist dealt up his 15th goal of the season before Riley Sheahan slipped the disc into the open net to give Edmonton the W.
Fine. Great. The important thing is that the Oilers got the win, right? Doesn’t matter if it was bowling shoe ugly, right?
“He (Koskinen) was unbelievable, the rest of the group wasn’t so unbelievable,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “I don’t know if it was mental fatigue or whatever it is, but we were not good tonight. Our execution was poor and our ability to win battles to get to pucks was really poor, but our goaltender was really good, so we got two points.”
The Blue Jackets had a 21-7 edge in shots on goal after the first frame and controlled the play for the majority of the second, but the Oilers hung in and their goaltending clearly came through. They’ve now won four of their last five.
But the concerns remain. You don’t ever want to get outshot 46-24. You don’t ever want to give up so much action against the run of play. You don’t ever want the edge in giveaways.
Edmonton was the more physical team on Saturday and snagged more faceoff wins, but they’ve got to tighten up as the playoffs near.
Defenceman Oscar Klefbom returned, giving Tippett as close to a full deck as you can get. The Oilers were 4-3-2 in the blueliner’s absence, so they’ll look to make a few corrections and trend in the right direction. Klefbom got back in the groove Saturday, skating for 22:11 and posting a shot on goal to finish a plus-three.
Part of Edmonton’s success has come from a little line tinkering, with the unit of Kailer Yamamoto, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a clear highlight. Yamamoto has 24 points in 24 games this season, despite being pointless and a minus-one on Saturday.
Photo credit: Jason Franson