So, and this is a question we are going to attempt to answer today, how much has fatigue eroded Mikko Koskinen’s playing ability for the Edmonton Oilers in the 2020-2021 season?
In the 2019-2020 season Koskinen went 18-13-3 with a .917 Save Percentage and a 2.75 Goals Against Average. So far this season in 15 games this season he is 7-8-0 with a .901 Save Percentage and a 3.26 Goals Against Average, so what has happened?
Has he just turned into a poor goalie in one season of play? Well obviously, this is not the case. However, looking at his body of work with the Edmonton Oilers shows what factors have contributed to his steep decline this season.
Koskinen’s Rookie (sort of) Season
At the ripe old age of 30, Mikko Koskinen signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 2018, valued at $2.5 million, at a time when there wasn’t much known about him outside his KHL numbers, which Reddit user u/Tylemaker attempted to guess at here. In comparing players who made the jump from the KHL to the NHL, he discovered that Koskinen’s Save Percentage year one as a backup would fall in the .905 to the .915 range.
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As it turned out, that season Koskinen would finish 25-21-6 with a .906 Save Percentage and a 2.93 Goals Against Average in 51 starts. Furthermore, he would post a -6.21 GSAA average and a quality start percentage of .471 with 8 RBS (starts below an .850% save percentage.) Playing in 55 games in total was not the intended use of Koskinen when he was signing with the Oilers.
However, Cam Talbot’s struggles that season forced the Oilers to trade him at the Deadline, meaning Koskinen was named the de facto starter, playing in 25 of the final 27 games of the season, with Anthony Stolarz playing twice against the San Jose Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs. In this span he went 11-10-4 with a .905 save percentage.
This doesn’t sound terrible until you consider that six of his RBS (really bad starts) came during that stretch. This illustrates perfectly that while performing in a tandem setting with Cam Talbot, Koskinen’s numbers were improved in terms of consistency with only two RBS during that span. While his numbers were similar during that stretch, 14-10-2 with a .906 Save Percentage, the peaks and valleys of Koskinen’s game were less mountainous, and more hill like in steepness.
Koskinen in 2019-2020
Last season Mikko Koskinen showed what most would consider to be his ceiling as an NHL goalie. Posting a .917 save percentage to go along with a 18-13-3 record and a 9.25 GSAA rating, meaning now Koskinen had gone from giving up six goals more than league average to saving 9 more than expected based on NHL average. This shocking near 180 degree improvement came out of one factor.
Now, not to say Smith was stellar or anything, because both Koskinen and Smith in earnest are 1B goalies at best. The addition of Smith took the pressure off Koskinen and this cannot be made clearer than when looking at Smith’s brutal 12 game stretch in November to early December.
In this span Smith won two out of twelve games and had a save percentage of .847. Koskinen’s record during that span where he was more heavily relied upon finished with him recording a 9-8-2 record and a .906 Save Percentage. Comparatively, the rest of the year he had a 9-6-1 record with a .925 Save Percentage. Clearly showing that when overly relied on, Koskinen struggles.
Koskinen in 2020-2021
So far this season Koskinen sits at a 7-8-0 record with a .901 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 3.26. Most of those games have taken place with Stuart Skinner as Koskinen’s only backup option. In the 12 games he started before Mike Smith returned from injury, Koskinen held a 5-7-0 record with a .889 Save Percentage and a 3.50 Goals Against Average.
Since Mike Smith’s return Koskinen has played in three games, with two starts and one appearance in relief of Smith against Winnipeg. In those three games, Koskinen has a .925 Save Percentage and a 1.60 GAA. Koskinen has really turned a corner over the past three games and it is largely in part to Mike Smith taking the weight off of Koskinen and lessening his work load.
As this season continues I expect fully to see Koskinen’s numbers improve to what we saw in 2019-2020. Koskinen is not a bad goaltender, he just simply needs to be part of a tandem to succeed. If he is counted upon to be a number one clear cut 50-60 game starter, then he will fail.
With Mike Smith more likely than not leaving after this season and Koskinen having only one more year left on his deal after this one, finding support for him next summer must be GM Ken Holland’s main priority. More likely than not I see the Oilers targeting Antti Raanta, who holds a .922 save percentage over the past seven seasons.
As for this current season, I doubt we see any sort of trade. With the COVID-19 restrictions being what they are and the cap situation being what it is, riding a Smith-Skinner tandem for two weeks seems like a poor man’s bet. Maybe Smith blows the doors off and has a Dwayne Roloson circa 2011 season with the Lightning at age 41, in which he helped carry the Tampa Bay Lightning to the final 4, who knows? At any rate, the goaltending situation is not going to change that much this season, and hopefully Smith brings some stability to Mikko Koskinen’s game.