Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stealing Games

After reeling off back-to-back wins against the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers in his previous two starts, one would think Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins would be leaning towards using Viktor Fasth for tonight’s tilt with the Nashville Predators. 

While the thirty-two year old netminder has been solid of late, it’s not as though he has had to stand on his head and steal points in either Buffalo or New York. However with this being the final stop of what has turned out to be a relatively successful five game road trip, expecting the Oilers to come out with another solid all-around performance could be asking a little much. 

Let’s not forget they will be playing their fifth game in eight days and are likely looking forward to getting home and back into their beds…though they will greeted with a good’ ol Alberta deep freeze upon their arrival. It’s not uncommon for teams to struggle during the finale of any extended road trip and more often than not, they tend to lean on their goaltender to put the team on their back and lead them to victory. 

Nashville hasn’t played since finishing off a six-game trek of their own on Saturday night in St. Louis, edging the Blues 2-1 and coming home with a 4-2 record on the trip. They currently sit atop the Central Division and find themselves just three points back of the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the West, despite having played the second fewest games in the Conference. Not too shabby for a team most had finishing out of the playoffs. 

With Pekka Rinne having returned to his 2010-2012 level in between the pipes and Nashville having finally found a way to score some goals under new head coach Peter Laviolette, Edmonton could be in tough to stretch their win streak to three. With that said, teams need their goaltender to steal them a game from time to time and tonight could very well be one of those times for the Oilers. 

Be it Fasth, who has gone a perfect 4-0 for his career against the Preds, or Ben Scrivens, it is time this group had a goaltender steal a game for them. While Scrivens was very good during the teams most recent six game home stand, in my mind, he was never called upon to steal anything. He certainly played a big part in Edmonton winning four straight but it was much more of a team effort than some made it out to be. 

Now if you compare how the former Toronto Maple Leafs netminder played during that two week stretch to how poor he was to start the season, one could easily come to the incorrect conclusion that he was stealing points for his team but in reality that simply was not the case. While Scrivens was called upon to do more than Fasth has over either of the Oilers last two games, his third period effort against the Washington Capitals would have been the closet either one has come to pulling off the feat this season. 

Tonight will be game No. 16 on Edmonton’s schedule, meaning twenty percent of their season will be in books following this evening’s result in Nashville. Expecting your goaltender to steal your team “X” amount of points should never be the game plan but over the course of an eighty-two game National Hockey League season it has to happen from time to time and the Oilers are still waiting for either one of these guys to hold up their end of the bargain and clock is ticking. 

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