Koskinen’s ‘First Goal Reputation’ Will Lead to Exit from Oilers

Editor's Choice, Edmonton Oilers, Key Post, Mikko Koskinen

Unfortunately for goaltender Mikko Koskinen, no matter how well he plays as a member of the Edmonton Oilers down the stretch this season, he’s being haunted by a reputation he’s likely never going to shake — at least not as a member of this team. It’s almost unfair when you consider how well Koskinen has played. His numbers aren’t terrible and his record this season is strong considering the Oilers have hung him out to dry and let the opposition pepper shots in his direction. Despite 30-some strong saves on any given night, it’s the one bad miss everyone repeatedly talks about.

The Old Koskinen Strikes Again

Another soft goal on the first shot of the night against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday brought back memories of a netminder who has let in that type of goal far too often in his career. There was no denying how bad a miss it was and it told fans early that it could be a long night.

Mikko Koskinen Edmonton Oilers
Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Adam Lowry was able to send a wrist shot past Koskinen on the first shot attempt of the game by the Jets. It was a shot Koskinen absolutely should have had. It trickled through and the netminder looked like a fish out of water trying to catch up to a slow-sliding puck that crossed over the goal line almost as if the moment was being played as part of a slow-motion replay. Ultimately, the Oilers never really got back into the contest despite a small flurry early in the third period.

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These were the types of goals Koskinen would let it repeatedly in years past. It was often either the first shot of the game or the same spot (glove hand high) and opposing teams knew it was his calling card. Shoot often, shoot early, and shoot high glove. Teams also knew, once Koskinen was rattled, he had a hard time pulling a Taylor Swift and shaking it off.

The Real Koskinen Isn’t What His Reputation Suggests

The good news is that Koskinen hasn’t shown nearly the signs of breakdown this season as he has in seasons past. Even on Tuesday, he was able to steady himself and give the Oilers a strong performance after letting that first dud get by him. In 11 starts this season, he’s 9-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. Those are good enough numbers to give the Oilers the netminding they need.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Mrazek Mistake & Finding Real Help for Jack Campbell

The reality is, without Koskinen, the Oilers’ record this season is much worse than 11-4. He’s kept them in games they shouldn’t have won and allowed the team in front of him to play shoot-em-up when the entire group should have been playing better defense. There are far more instances this year where Koskinen has made 10-bell saves than instances where he’s made a fool of himself.

None of That Probably Matters

The bad news for Koskinen is that he’s not likely to shake his reputation as a goalie who leaks easy stops. There’s a saying that goes something like, ‘You can make 99 good decisions and one bad one. It’s the bad one everyone remembers.’ Such is the case for Koskinen who might make 99 good saves and fans will only talk about the one he let get by him. In other words, he will carry this rep as someone who can’t make the timely stop with him the rest of the year and likely to another franchise next season.

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

It’s highly unlikely the Oilers see him as part of their long-term plans. He’s solid and better than some of the “upgrades” the Oilers might consider this season before the NHL trade deadline, but he’s shown enough in his four years with this club that it’s time to look at someone that will join the core of the group and be the netminder of the future.

GM Ken Holland has fought hard to relay that he’s got confidence in his tandem of Koskinen and Mike Smith, but Holland has also tried to upgrade at the position more than once. Dave Tippett pulling Koskinen on Tuesday was as much a mercy pull to spark the team as anything, but if he had Smith, we know who he’d be playing. At the end of the day, Koskinen won’t be the guy.

The narrative that Koskinen should get credit for fighting back after a bad goal against and offers steady goaltending is a positive, but tired one for the Edmonton market, even if it’s true. This market just wants to see him make that initial stop. Even if he starts to do that, one has to wonder if it’s too late.

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