It is imperative the Edmonton Oilers start Calvin Pickard for Game 5

Kris Knoblauch claims he is undecided on who will be between the pipes for game five in Vancouver, but it seems clear who the Edmonton Oilers should start.
Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens
Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The second round playoff series between the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Cancucks seems to have had it all. From key injury absences, to three-goal collapses, to late/overtime winners and so on.

Another big takeaway, has been the performance of the backup goalies. Or in truth the third-stringers, given where Arturs Silovs and Calvin Pickard were at the beginning of this season.

With this being an Oilers site, we're more focused on Pickard, who came in for game four and gave the team exactly what it needed. Despite being his first ever playoff start, he came through with flying colours and took home the game's Second Star.

Some may argue that the 32-year-old allowed two goals as the Canucks tied the game at 2-2 during a frenetic third period, which the Oilers won late on. However, the reality was there was little he could do about either goal, as he finished the night with 19 saves from 21 shots on goal.

Pickard vs. Skinner

So now, this leaves the question of who will start between the pipes for Thursday night's crucial game five back in Vancouver? Pickard, or Stuart Skinner?

Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch gave some insight into his thought process, by explaining what went into deciding who started game four. Speaking to the media on Wednesday, he said: "Well there's a lot of things that go into allowing me to go to that decision. Talking to a lot of people on staff and getting a feel from the players, but mostly the assistant coaches, Ken Holland, just everybody within the organisation, trying to have it in perspective and I gather as much information as I can and then we move on."

Knoblauch was then asked outright, if Pickard will start again on Thursday night. He paused, and then said: "We have not decided. The coaches are going to get together about 15 minutes after this (media session) and we'll discuss our lineup, our forward lines, our defence group and our starting goaltender. So we will have a decision for you (Thursday) morning."

Of course if makes sense for the Oilers coach to take his time in making any decision, but if he is smart, Pickard will be in net again for game five. The 2010 second round draft pick was like a breath of fresh air on Tuesday night, bringing some much-needed calm and stability in goal.

Consider the words of Knoblauch himself about Pickard, following Tuesday night's crucial win. He said: "He looked like a guy that had played a hundred playoff games. Composed, really solid, seeing the puck really well. ... That's not a guy who's nervous at all; he's enjoying it."

Skinner just not himself

Now contrast the vibe around Skinner, who has been nervous all series so far versus the Canucks. As with last season, his impressive regular season success has been replaced by an unacceptable level of production during the playoffs.

This is not to say Skinner shouldn't get another chance at some point, but just not yet. Pickard has more than earned the right to start again on Thursday night in Vancouver, as the Oilers find out if he can continue to be a reliable option for however long they have left in this year's playoffs.

One final aspect which may well influence Knoblauch's decision in net, is how Skinner performed versus the Vegas Golden Knights last year, when the Oilers' season was on the line. He got the nod for games five and six, and was subsequently replaced by Jack Campbell both times, after allowing a combined eight goals.

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Let's be clear in mentioning that defence is a team-wide effort, but the goalie can compensate for a lot of mistakes in front of him, something which Skinner has failed to do in three playoff starts against the Canucks. As such -- if so inclined -- the smart money should be on Pickard to start game five at Rogers Arena.

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