Calvin Pickard's performance means more uncertainty for Stuart Skinner

Calvin Pickard takes home the Second Star in the Edmonton Oilers' crucial game four win, which now opens the door for him to remain as the starter in net.
Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers - Game Four
Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers - Game Four / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

The Edmonton Oilers entered Tuesday night's pivotal game four clash facing plenty of uncertainty. This included injury concerns, questions about their lack of toughness and an inability to take advantage of a plethora of chances on goal.

Arguably the biggest uncertainty of all though, was the situation between the pipes. With genuine respect for Stuart Skinner, who is widely regarded as an excellent teammate and all around good guy, he had been terrible versus the Vancouver Canucks in the first three games.

This was best highlighted by allowing 12 goals on just58 shots, translating to a quite simply unacceptable .793 save percentage and 4.41 GAA for Skinner. Down 2-1 in their second round series and having relinquished home-ice advantage, the Oilers were at a crossroads.

Lose on Tuesday night at home, and the Oilers risked the prospect of returning to Vancouver down 3-1 and facing an elimination game in hosile territory. It's therefore telling, that with the season effectively on the line, coach Kris Knoblauch made the ballsey decision to give Calvin Pickard the first playoff start of his career.

Pickard comes through for Oilers

Pickard had done okay in relief of Skinner for the third period of game three, saving all three shots he faced, but this was a different beast. What followed, proved to be redemption for Knoblauch's gamble.

Pickard went on to save 19 of the 21 shots he faced, resulting in a crucial 3-2 win for the Oilers. He subsequently took home the game's Second Star, as the team headed back on the road with the series tied at 2-2 rather than trailing 3-1.

Understandably, there will be critics who point to the 2010 second round draft pick allowing the Cancucks to come back and tie the game at 2-2 during a frantic third period. In fairness though there was little he could do on either goal, particularly the first when he was screened and it was scored via a deflection.

Ultimately, what mattered most was that Pickard provided a stability that had been missing during the first three games of the Canucks series. Tuesday night was the first game of the second round clash, when the Oilers allowed fewer than three goals.

The 32-year-old discussed postgame about his approach to the game and how he thought the team played. Speaking to the media, he said: "I was trying to channel my emotions as much as I could. Obviously it’s tough, it’s a high-stakes game. Obviously a huge game for us, but I felt comfortable from the get-go. There was a great energy early, the crowd was into it. We played great all night. Obviously (Vancouver) got a couple of good bounces for them, but it didn't deflate us and it was a huge goal at the end."

Knoblauch was asked about his goalie's performance and was understandably complimentary. Also speaking to the media, he said: "He looked like a guy that had played a hundred playoff games. Composed, really solid, seeing the puck really well. I know there was one in the third period where they sifted one from the blue line and there was five or six bodies in front of him, and he snagged it."

The Oilers coach also talked about Pickard's demeanour in goal. He said: "There were a lot of nice plays. But not only that, just the confidence being in net. I don't know how many times he played the puck really well. That's not a guy who's nervous at all, he's enjoying it."

Pickard or Skinner moving forward?

What's interesting about this description of Pickard, is that it is in stark contrast to how Skinner was in goal during the first three games versus the Canucks. More specifically, about how his confidence had been impacted and was making him nervous in net.

This all leads to more uncertainty surrounding Skinner at the part he will play during the remainder of this second round series. Not that he's suddenly become a bad goalie -- his regular season success tell us as much that he isn't -- but that he could be a potential liability at this juncture.

Consider that Skinner also struggled during the playoffs last season, to the point that four times he was replaced in 12 games. As much as he played well overall in the previous round versus the Los Angeles Kings, this form went out the window once faced with the Canucks.

Next. Availability of Adam Henrique for Canucks series up in the air. Availability of Adam Henrique for Canucks series up in the air. dark

As a result, the Oilers are now at a point where they are desperate and need better composure and confidence in goal, if they are to advance to the Western Conference Final. If Tuesday night is any indication, then Pickard is the solution for a team desperate to win their first Stanley Cup of the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaital era in Edmonton.

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