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BLOG: Koskinen, Smith sharing in early success

"I felt like coming into the season that if we manage both these guys well, we should be able to give both of them the chance to be successful every night," Head Coach Dave Tippett said

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Despite the goaltending position's individual nature, it takes two to tango in the twine.

Having split duties down the middle in between the pipes through seven games this season for the Oilers, netminders Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have flourished so far as a tandem.

Both Smith and Koskinen have posted three wins each and combined for a 2.55 goals-against average and .922 save percentage as crucial cogs in a 6-1-0 start for the Oilers out of the gate to begin the '19-20 NHL season.

Seeing early confidence from both is leaving Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett with no hesitation to regularly rotate his netminders in and out as his side navigates the travel rigours of being a Pacific Division club after having already journeyed to the East Coast for a four-game road trip that saw the club secure six out of a possible eight points.

Having a refreshed netminder in Koskinen for Wednesday's tilt with the Philadelphia Flyers upon returning to Edmonton early Tuesday morning from Chicago paid dividends, with the Finn posting a career-high 49 saves on 52 shots and being heralded by the bench boss as the first, second, and third star of the night.

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 10.17.19

"In our situation with our schedule and travel, I don't mind the way it sets up at all," Tippett said. "Both guys can be fresh. Smitty played a heck of a game in Chicago the other night, but we got home really late and Smitty had played a couple of games. So it was a no brainer to put Koskinen in. He was fresh and we got a great game out of him last night." 

From the onset of Training Camp, it's how Tippett and his coaching staff had it envisioned.

"I felt like coming into the season that if we manage both these guys well, we should be able to give both of them the chance to be successful every night," he added. "So you're trying to make sure they're rested, make sure they get enough practice time, and there's a lot of factors that go into it. So far, so good. Goaltending's been good for us."

Balancing game time with rest for the two crease guards has been Tippett's priority, along with managing two different personalities that share the same goal.

"That would be an understatement," Tippett laughed, citing their unique personas.

"Both are very engaging in their own way. Obviously I have a background with Smitty, so I've known him since he was a rookie player. We go back a long way. They're both very different personalities, but both have a real passion to play and a passion to win."

Video: RAW | Koskinen 10.17.19

Having the chance to observe one another from the bench has provided plenty of learning opportunities for the goalies, including Koskinen who as a 31-year-old still has aspects of the North American game he's keen to improve on with only 62 games of NHL experience. 

"It's really good," Koskinen said of the connection. "He's a really experienced goalie who's played so many years at a really high level, and I think I can learn a lot from him and have a lot of respect for him.

"When Smitty's playing, of course I try to watch and learn what I can do and what he's doing really well. But the main thing is that I can only control what I'm doing."

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