The Edmonton Oilers continued to roll on Tuesday night, winning their 14th consecutive game and climbing to within three victories of equalling the all-time mark by the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, don't for one minute think they had it easy in beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at Rogers Place.
The scoreline does not come even close to describing the sequence of events, with the Oilers actually being outplayed for a large portion of the contest versus the Blue Jackets. They were outshot 23-13 through 40 minutes and extremely fortunate to go into the final period tied at 1-1.
The number one reason the Oilers were in this position entering the third, was undoubtedly the performance of their goaltender, Stuart Skinner. To say that he's on a hot streak right now, would be a significant understatement.
Consider that following Tuesday night's win, in which Skinner stopped 27 of 28 shots, he is now 18-2-0 since Nov. 24. This is in stark contrast to the player who began this season 1-1-5 and at one point had the third-worst save percentage among all NHL goalies.
A record-breaking night
What was particularly special about Tuesday night's game, was that it was the Edmonton native's 11th consecutive win, which is a new franchise record for the Oilers. It broke a tie with the previous record-holder Grant Fuhr, who won 10 straight starts back in 1986.
Fuhr was magnanimous and graceful about seeing his record broken, which speaks to how much he still loves the Oilers. As per Sportsnet, the five-time Stanley Cup winner said: "It's a good sign. It means the Oilers are winning. And Stu's a great kid, so it's even better."
That last sentence is particularly important, as it represents the prevailing sentiment when it comes to Skinner. He is an extremely popular person on and off the ice, both in and out of the locker room.
Players, coaches, media and fans alike love the personality and attitude of the 2023 All-Star, who has no problem with standing up and accepting the blame when he has a bad night. He did just this after a horrific outing in a 7-4 loss to the Lightning back in December, and he received a lot of praise.
Skinner's ability to bounce back from adversity is truly remarkable, with him recently providing a fascinating insight into his mindset. He went as far as to say all the criticism and heckling is actually part of the dream and privilege of being an NHL goalie, as he uses bad outings to help him improve his overall game.
When you consider the 25-year-old's approach and demeanour, it's tough not to root for him to succeed. And he's certainly doing just that at the moment.
Outstanding versus the Blue Jackets
Returning to Tuesday night specifically, Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch acknowledged his team dodged a bullet versus the Blue Jackets. Speaking about Skinner postgame, Knoblauch said: "It wasn’t good enough. We weren’t very good in the first two periods and he came up with a lot of big saves."
The game would -- and maybe should -- have been over after 40 minutes, but Skinner made a number of excellent and timely saves, especially during the first period. And the one goal he did allow, he couldn't really do anything about it.
Fortunately for everyone concerned, the Oilers finally woke up in the third period and scored three goals to put the game to bed with an extremely flattering final scoreline. Make no mistake about it though, without Skinner's performance -- which quite rightly earned him the game's First Star -- the Oilers' win streak would have been stopped at 13.
Speaking to the media postgame, Skinner was unsurprisingly humble about surpassing Fuhr for the most consecutive wins for an Oilers goalie. He said: "It means a lot. I was feeling a lot of emotions, especially when I went out on the ice for the First Star, just because it's pretty cool to be able to break a record from one of the best goalies to ever live. Obviously a guy I look up to and a guy I've talked to. He's just one of the best, so I'm very fortunate to be able to break it."
At the moment you would have to say the Oilers are also fortunate, if not more so, given just how strong the 25-year-old has been between the pipes for them this season. He's projected to set a new personal GAA best of 2.49, while his .908 save percentage is rapidly closing in on his current high of .913.
Overall, there is still some concern about Skinner starting too much and potentially being prone to burnout if Calvin Pickard -- or whoever the backup is -- doesn't play more. However, as things stand, this is Stuart Skinner's world and we're all just living in it.