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‘He is a brick wall’: Record-breaking Skinner, Oilers simply refuse to lose – Best IPTV Subscription Provider

‘He is a brick wall’: Record-breaking Skinner, Oilers simply refuse to lose – Best IPTV Subscription Provider

EDMONTON — Grant Fuhr was at home in Palm Springs, watching as Stu Skinner erased his name from another line in the Edmonton Oilers‘ record book, recording his 11th straight win to break Fuhr’s team record from back in the 1985-86 campaign. 

“I’m OK with that,” Fuhr shrugged. “It’s a good sign —  it means the Oilers are winning. And Stu’s a great kid, so it’s even better.” 

The Oilers won their 14th straight game, erasing a sloppy opening 40 minutes with a dominant, three-goal third period to vanquish the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 4-1 score Tuesday.

If it takes a new hero every night to keep a streak like this alive, it was Skinner who wore the cape in this one. He was fabulous in the opening 40 minutes, as his team mustered just 13 shots on net while committing 23 turnovers. 

Edmonton hadn’t had more than 22 turnovers in an entire game to this point in the season. 

“That honestly could have been a 5-0 deficit after two periods,” said winger Warren Foegele, after another two-point night. “We don’t want to rely on him too much, but it is nice to know he is a brick wall there in the back. 

“He has been unreal the last few months.” 

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When the playoffs ended last spring, the Oilers’ goaltending was a question mark. Then the season began this fall, and that question mark morphed into sheer panic. 

“By Year 3, you’re starting to figure out how you fit in,” Fuhr said over the phone, “but in Year 2 you’re still scrambling, adjusting to everything. Especially at the start of Year 2. I got better by the halfway point of Year 2, but in Year 3 I finally had enough confidence in myself.” 

Skinner certainly had that shaky start to his sophomore season that Fuhr mentioned, after being a Calder Trophy finalist last season. But boy, has he ever turned things around. 

Since Nov. 24, Skinner leads the NHL with 18 wins, and ranks second behind Connor Hellebuyck in save percentage (.933) and goals-against average (1.80). 

That’s as solid a two months as any goalie on earth, from a 25-year-old who wasn’t even born when Fuhr was refusing to let in the next one back in the ‘80s. 

Any Edmonton kid who straps the pads on knows the Legend of Grant Fuhr however, the same as a Montrealer can lean on his goal stick the way Ken Dryden did — even if they never set foot in the old Forum. 

“My whole family has watched him, and I have watched every single YouTube video possible on him,” Skinner said of Fuhr. “From his interviews to his incredible saves. Obviously it is really cool what he did for this organization. He is one of the best to ever play the game and a Hall of Famer, as he should be. 

“I was feeling a lot of emotions, especially when I went out on the ice for the first star. It is pretty cool to be able to break a record from one of the best goalies to ever live.”

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So, let’s dare to dream a bit, shall we? 

What if Skinner is the next great young goalie? What if this third-rounder is a budding Thatcher Demko, or even as good as another goalie from that 2017 draft, Jeremy Swayman? 

What if he’s (gulp) Jake Oettinger, who came from the same 2017 draft and has lesser numbers than Skinner this season? What if he’s Igor Shesterkin, or even just a step below the best in the game, Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy? 

How does that change things here in Edmonton, when the local kid turns into a legit No. 1, at six-foot-four and with a mental maturity that is far beyond his 25 years? 

“There’s still a lot of sky above,” said Fuhr. “He was really good last year, everybody has a tough start to the second year, and he’s really good again. I think he’s going to get better yet. 

“You’re seeing the beginnings of it, but I think he’s still got another level yet. Ideally, you want to see it at playoff time.” 

Skinner was over-used last spring, by a coaching staff that simply didn’t trust backup Jack Campbell. Then the Oilers were a tire fire as a team early in the 2023-24 season. 

It’s one thing to believe in yourself through an awful start, but it really helps when you lay down the kind of evidence that Skinner has produced these past two months. 

“Nobody is going to believe in you until you believe in yourself,” Fuhr said. “That’s the hard part about goaltending: When your confidence disappears, you feel it. 

“But everyone else sees it.” 

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Right now, Skinner is that perfect goaltending package of economy of motion, near perfect rebound control, and the ability to freelance when the time comes to throw style points out the window and desperately keep a puck out of his net. 

He’s calm as calm can be — both in-game and in the post-game media scrums — as chilled as the Chicoutimi Cucumber himself, Georges Vezina, in a position often occupied by the nervous and uptight. 

How good can he be? 

“Hopefully a lot better,” Skinner said. “For me it is about growing. We all love the game and our job is to keep on getting better every single day. I am hoping I have a lot of years left, and there is a lot of growth for me to have. 

“The sky is the limit, as we like to say. But I have to keep on working on my craft.” 

For now, Edmonton has a good one here. 

Do they have a great one? Well, at this stage in his career Fuhr was calling the Oilers fans “jerks” and bouncing up and down from the minor leagues. 

And we’d have to say, he turned out OK. 

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