January was quite a month for the Edmonton Oilers, as they went 11-0-0 and improved their winning streak to 16 games, just one short of the Pittsburgh Penguins' NHL record. One of the main reasons behind this run, was the form of Stuart Skinner between the pipes.
Skinner was simply stellar during January, as he went a perfect 9-0-0. In the process he produced a 1.33 Goals Against Average (GAA) and .953 save percentage, to help maintain the Oilers' stunning win streak.
Of the Oilers' 16 consecutive wins, the 2023 All-Star has been in net for 12 of them. As a result of this he surpassed Grant Fuhr's previous record of 10 straight wins, to set a new franchise mark.
NHL rewards Skinner for his success
Skinner's remarkable run has now received recognition around the league, with the NHL awarding him their Second Star of the Month for January. As per NHL.com, the Rockies' Nathan MacKinnon was named First Star and Elias Pettersson of the Canucks was awarded the Third Star.
Returning to Skinner specifically, it is noteworthy that his winning run now has him within two of the all-time NHL record of 14 straight victories for a goaltender. It has been achieved four times to date, with the most recent being Sergei Bobrovsky in 2016-17, with the Blue Jackets.
The 25-year-old's form has been nothing short of sensational, and marks a major turnaround from his poor start to the 2023-24 campaign. He began the season with a 1-5-1 record in his first seven starts and at one point he had the third-worst save percentage among all NHL goalies.
Since then though Skinner has been in a rich vein of form, with his 22 wins since Nov. 3 representing the most in the NHL. Overall, his 23 wins this season are third in the NHL, behind Colorado's Alexander Georgiev (27) and Vancouver's Thatcher Demko (26).
A stand-up guy
It's hard not to root for the guy, and not just because he's an Edmonton native. He's always the first to stand up and take the blame when he's not played well, best exemplified after he allowed five goals in a 7-4 loss to the Lightning.
Skinner's success follows on from a storybook campaign with the Oilers last season, when he stepped up after Jack Campbell failed to assert himself as the starting netminder. By season's end, the rookie had played well enough to finish runner up for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Now, the 2017 third round draft pick is proving that his success last season wasn't a fluke. At the time of posting he is projected to set a new career-best GAA of 2.44, while his .910 save percentage is well within reach of his current single-season high of .913.
At the risk of sound harsh, in many ways Skinner is the anti-Campbell, in that he has more self-confidence compared to his fellow goalie. In fact, it is remarkable just how well he responds to adversity, to the point that he almost seems to welcome it.
This came across recently, in a fascinating insight into the 2018 WHL champion's mindset. He admitted he perceives all the criticism and heckling as part of the dream and privilege of being an NHL goaltender, with him also using bad outings to help improve his overall game.
Pending how the remainder of the regular season plays out, one of the next challenges facing Skinner is to perform better than he did during last season's playoffs. He struggled to the point that four times he had to be replaced by Campbell, as the Oilers went on to be knocked out in the second round by the Golden Knights.
However, if this season has proven anything, Skinner has repeatedly displayed an ability and strong mental fortitude to bounce back from poor form. This could prove invaluable, as the Oilers look to finally win their first Stanley Cup since 1990.