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Skinner under scrutiny as Oilers search for spark against Canucks


Stuart Skinner, rightly or wrongly, is being heavily scrutinized right now.

That's what happens in Canada, in Edmonton, when the local hockey heroes come up short the night before in a playoff game they didn't necessarily have to lose.

Soon after the horn sounded on the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series to go down two games to one, collective fingers — both blatantly and subtly — started pointing at various plays, actions and players that could be to blame.

And while the flow of any given National Hockey League game is a series of moments — with one thing leading to another, and so on — the spotlight often shines brightest on goaltending.

Skinner, the Oilers' starting goalie all season and for each of their eight post-season games this year, allowed all four goals scored against his team Sunday night, some of them arguably his fault.

His coaches thought as much, pulling the 25-year-old Edmonton native in favour of backup Calvin Pickard for most of the third period.

Some fans and critics feel Skinner deserves to wear the goat horns for this one. Some came to his defence.

It was a difficult experience, he said the day after, apologizing to media in advance of Monday's interview session for not making himself available to them following the game.

"I think just the emotions kind of caught up with me," Skinner said.

"It was tough mentally definitely last night. You never want to get pulled (from) a game, feel like you let down the team, so I've got some work to do here to get back at it and learn from the mistakes that I've been making."

Skinner has a save percentage of .877 through the Oilers' eight playoff games, well below the acceptable standard of .900 and near the bottom of the NHL post-season pack. Against the Canucks, that statistic is .793.

In the opposing crease, Canucks goalie Arturs Silovs sports a .908 save percentage in six games played. Against the Oilers, it's .883.

Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said he wouldn't name his starting goalie until Tuesday morning.

"If it's Stu, I have confidence that he will bounce back," Knoblauch told media on Monday.

"If it's Picks, I know that he can play and give us a solid performance when he hasn't played for long stretches of time. He's shown it throughout the regular season."

Under microscope 'all the time'

Former Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson said such drama is expected this time of year.

"Everything is getting magnified," said Roloson, a hero of Edmonton's run to the 2006 Stanley Cup final known as Roli The Goalie.

"It's playoff time, and especially in Edmonton, it's (the fans') livelihood ... The players are underneath the microscope all the time. They live it, you're used to it. Stuart's lived there, grew up there, so it's even magnified a little bit more for him."

Roloson's advice for dealing with the pressure: forget it and move on.

"Goalies, and I hate to say it, we've got to live like we have amnesia," he told CTV News Edmonton.

"We can't remember, think about or even try to look backwards in a situation. You've always got to look forward, you've got to focus on what's coming next, not what's happened in the past.

"For him, he's a young guy, but he's very mature for his age. He's going to be fine. He just needs to focus on him. Whatever happens happens, control what he can. It's easier to say, tougher to do and he has the tools to do it."

Star Oilers captain Connor McDavid said he and his teammates have "all the faith in the world" in Skinner, and expects he and the team will "respond" in Tuesday's Game 4 on home ice.

He pointed out two key traits shown by the Canucks: "As good as they are around their net, they go to our net hard."

"They always have bodies there, always putting pucks there," McDavid told reporters on Monday.

"Obviously, we can defend better, I think we've done a good job of not spending too much time in our zone. The chances they have gotten have been good looks, and ultimately, we've got to eliminate those."

That, too, was observed by Roloson.

"Where the Oilers are letting that happen in front of their net, that you don't see that happen in Vancouver's net front," he said.

"They've got to make sure they get there, create that havoc to be able to turn the series around."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Marek Tkach Top Stories


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