EDMONTON — What we respected the most about Mikko Koskinen, before he shattered his stick on the goal post after allowing the fourth goal on the fourth Vancouver Canucks shot of the game, was his measured approach.
Koskinen sized up the moment like a guy addressing a tee shot, or getting ready to chop some wood. He addressed the post, setting his distance, taking a nice, wide stance — bend the knees slightly — and started chopping away.
Measure once, swing twice. Then head to the showers.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the first four shots go in your net,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett, who has only been in hockey for a short time.
Maybe 50 years or so.
“The first one was poor coverage (Jesse Puljujarvi). The second one was a poor turnover (Dmitry Kulikov). And the third and fourth ones were poor… Should have been saves from the goalie,” said Tippett, who was a coach of few words after a 6-3 loss to Vancouver.
“Our whole team wasn’t very good to start. Top to bottom,” said captain Connor McDavid, who somehow managed another three-point night to pull to 96 points with four games to play.
That is how Edmonton’s night began on Thursday, with a poor team effort and a goalie who could have played the game buck naked and not gone home with a bruise.
It’s not an NHL record, allowing the first four shots in a game to pass. It happened to Minnesota North Stars goalie Don Beaupre back in 1989, and Dan Bouchard a decade before for the Atlanta Flames.
See, it happens all the time.
“After the third one I was going to let him battle. After the fourth one, we needed a change,” spat Tippett. “Some nights, it’s not your night.”
Ah, the Three Metres of Koskinen.
Ever since Peter Chiarelli signed him to that enormous three-year, $13.5-million deal — convinced that if he did not, someone else would quickly snap the six-foot-seven Finn up at a similar price — poor Mikko has worn the pact like a yoke in this town.
Nights like this one remind us of a GM who signed the worst contract of his tenure and was fired two days later. Sneaky Pete snuck the Koskinen contract past the goalie, like so many Canucks shots in the opening 12:22 Thursday.
Simply, Koskinen is a nice backup. He’s an NHL No. 2 who is paid like an NHL No. 1.
And he has a thing about the first shot of the game. It goes in — a lot.
He may be bought out this summer, or he may play out the final year of Chiarelli’s gift next season. Whatever happens, Koskinen will forever be a chapter in the Oilers’ goaltending history book, a tablet that starts with guys like Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford, but quickly moves on to men like Eldon “Pokey” Reddick and Ilya “Mr. Universe” Bryzgalov.
There was a night in the old barn in Winnipeg when Jets defenceman Deron Quint scored two goals in four seconds on Edmonton goalie Joaquin Gage, an NHL record that still stands today. The second one was a simple dump-in off the centre-ice faceoff, but when Gage circled behind his net to play the puck it caromed off a station and into the yawning net.
On another night, after Peter Ing suffered a loss that ended some rare streak of Oilers success in the 1990s, I recall a colleague who topped his copy with this:
“Winning ends with Ing.”
Ing had come to Edmonton from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a blockbuster deal that included Vincent Damphousse, Luke Richardson, Fuhr and Glenn Anderson. He would later be shipped to Detroit for a seventh-rounder and Chris Wickenheiser.
Glen Sather should have asked for Hayley.
Yes, the Three Metres of Koskinen has some company among some of the beauties who have stood between the pipes over the many years here in Edmonton.
They had Ronnie Low — “Low Tide” to his friends — and Don “Smokie” McLeod, the first goalie I ever saw ice a puck, back in the old World Hockey Association.
They had the wrong Dryden — Dave, not Ken — and the Oilers once dealt defenceman Bruce Bell to the North Stars for goalie Kari Takko, a deal famously known as the “Takko Bell trade.”
A youngster trying out for the team one year regaled the media with a tale of being treed by a bear while hunting, a nifty bit of turnabout by the sneaky bruin. He was cut soon after, but in the end that goalie would become a Bruin himself.
His name was Tim Thomas.
The 80s Oilers scored mercilessly on Warren Skorodenski when he stood between the pipes for the Chicago Blackhawks — so much so that his nickname in these parts became Warren “Score-against-me.” Then Sather inexplicably acquired him.
He had a 6.89 goals-against average and a save percentage of .720 as an Oiler.
No kidding he did.