Stuart Skinner is ready to do better second time around in the playoffs

Stuart Skinner's performances in the playoffs last season left much to be desired, but now he feels better prepared to handle the expectations.
Washington Capitals v Edmonton Oilers
Washington Capitals v Edmonton Oilers / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

Last season Stuart Skinner proved to be a pleasant surprise, as he established himself as the Edmonton Oilers' main option between the pipes. He went 29-14-5 in 48 starts, producing a .913 save percentage and 2.75 Goals Against Average (GAA) in the process.

Skinner's form in goal was also a necessity, due to Jack Campbell's struggles in his first season of the five-year, $25 million deal he signed with the Oilers. While Campbell went 21-9-4 in 34 starts, he also set career worsts with a .888 save percentage and 3.41 GAA. (His .872 save percentage and 6.00 GAA in 2013-14 only came in one game.)

However, as good as Skinner was during the 2022-23 season, it all went disastrously wrong come playoff time. He went just 5-6-0 in 12 starts and it got so bad he was replaced by Campbell on four occasions, as he produced a poor .883 save percentage and 3.68 GAA.

Stepping it up in 2023-24

This season has seen Skinner improve overall as the Oilers' main goalie, having already set career-bests with 51 starts and 33 wins, which are tied for third-most in the NHL as of Monday morning. Yes his .907 save percentage is down on last season, but has improved dramatically after at one point having the third-worst save percentage among all NHL goalies, while his 2.62 GAA is tied for the best of his time in the NHL.

Understandably though, critics will point to how the 2017 third round draft pick's excellent form during last season went out the window once the playoffs began. When it mattered most, he didn't perform close to the same level.

Now of course we appreciate the Oilers haven't even secured a playoff spot yet in 2023-24. However, you can all but assume this will happen, with a 12-point advantage over the chasing pack and just 10 regular season games remaining.

Along these lines, let's assume the Oilers will make the playoffs, which brings us back to Skinner. Will he perform better in his second exposure to the playoffs, or similarly fall apart like last season?

Skinner feels better prepared for the playoffs

For his part, the 25-year-old is confident he will be better this time around. As per Derek Van Diest of, he said: "I'm much more prepared, and to be honest, a lot of that is through experience. I got to experience the whole playoff emotions and situations last year and I've really honed down and really focused on that. I'm better this year than I was last year, I'm a lot more prepared for what's to come."

Part of what makes Skinner so fascinating, is his phenomenal mental fortitude and how he almost embraces adversity and criticism. Speaking to the media earlier this season after a 7-4 loss, he said: "Sometimes being heckled is an incredible honour. I forget who said it, but when I was really young, I think I read a quote from a goalie saying that the best job in the world is all the fans booing at you because you let in a goal, and that's extremely true. It's the best job I have, the best job I'll ever have and I'm very fortunate to be heckled, to be booed. Some people say I suck and that's great. I'm going to keep working on my game and I get to play the game that I love to play. It's a huge privilege to play on a position like that."

With that kind of attitude, Oilers fans can have faith in Skinner's ability to bounce back from losses, while also continuing to improve, both of which he has done. The confidence is clearly also there, with Van Diest reporting that he said: "I'm really excited to get going in the playoffs. I've been preparing for the playoffs pretty much since the halfway point of the season."

A product of hard work and discipline

Interestingly, the Edmonton native's confidence, mental fortitude and laid back appearance are not part of his natural personality. As per Van Diest, he said: "It's definitely not my makeup, it's something I chose to figure out and chose to accomplish. At the same time, there's still a lot of games where frustration comes in. I'm only human, so you're going to feel those types of emotions."

Skinner is an extremely popular player in the Oilers locker room, which only helps when it comes to teammates wanting to work hard and help him succeed. At the same time it won't matter if he performs poorly again in the playoffs, but there is plenty of reason to believe this will not be the case second time around.

Oilers' promising prospect set to resume playing next season. dark. Next. Oilers' promising prospect set to resume playing next season

Skinner has two seasons remaining after the 2023-24 campaign, before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. However, if he continues on the trajectory he's shown since coming to the NHL, you get the feeling he's going to be the long-term option in goal for the Oilers.

Editor's Picks