Oilers’ Tippett says criticism of Koskinen ‘was taken out of context’

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It didn’t help that the Oilers, currently mired in a run where they’ve lost 10 of 12 games, were part of the only NHL Monday game night. Their 4-1 loss to the Rangers highlighted the numerous things currently wrong with the team, and it put the spotlight on goaltending.

Mikko Koskinen was in net and allowed all four goals, including the opener, which he gifted to the Rangers barely six minutes into the game. Before that, he took a delay of game penalty just 15 seconds after puck drop.

“I thought we did a lot of things well tonight,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said afterward. “Our goaltender wasn’t very good and we didn’t find enough pucks at the net to get us back in the game.”

On the gaffe that gifted Alexis Lafrenière his sixth goal of the year, the coach summed it up by saying, “It’s a brutal mistake. What are you going to do? Call it what it is. We’re playing well, and it’s a brutal mistake.”

Koskinen fires back

Meanwhile, Koskinen responded to the criticism via Tommi Seppälä of Finnish outlet Yle Urheilu, saying “That’s how it usually goes in this business. When a team is doing badly, either the coach or the goalkeeper is sacrificed. It doesn’t feel nice to anyone when thrown under the bus, but those coach comments didn’t make me think of that. You just have to go to the next game”

Following up those comments ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Maple Leafs, Tippett said his comments were “taken out of context.”

“Goaltenders, when they make mistakes it has an impact on the game. We’re a team struggling,” Tippett said. “Those are mistakes that are made that affect the outcome of the game. … There’s a frustration around our team.

“The question was [about] the start of the game. The whole thing was taken out of context. We’re talking about starting the game. The first five minutes of the game not giving up the first goal, that’s what it was. Mikko made some good saves in that game, right? He hung around the game, but it was the start of the game that we’re trying to get off to a good start. That’s the part you get emotional about.”

(You can jump to the 7:39 mark here and see the question posed to Tippett wasn’t focused on the start of games.)

The goaltending hasn’t been good for the Oilers between Koskinen, Mike Smith and Stuart Skinner. The three netminders have combined for a .908 5-on-5 save percentage, per Natural Stat Trick.

More than goaltending

But it’s not just stopping pucks, it’s putting them behind other goalies that’s also been a problem. Since this skid began on Dec. 3, the Oilers have averaged 2.42 goals per game, fourth-worst in the NHL. Once they returned from the early holiday break, their power play has failed to cash in on only four opportunities in four games.

Koskinen made sure to bring up that point to Seppälä.

“It must also be said that in the six games I lost, the team has scored seven goals,” he said. “I can’t score goals. It’s not always up to the goalkeeper alone to win or lose. The whole team needs to play better in the future.”

The hopes of snapping their four-game losing streak took a hit with the news that the Oilers will be without Connor McDavid, Tyson Barrie and Derek Ryan for Wednesday’s meeting with the Maple Leafs. All three remain in COVID-19 protocol. Toronto, meanwhile, will get Auston Matthews back after he tested negative.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.