Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Good Ben Scrivens

Heading into last night’s game against the Boston Bruins, all anyone wanted to talk about was who Claude Julien would be starting in goal. After starting Tuukka Rask in fourteen consecutive games and twenty-three of the Bruins last twenty-four outings, word on the street was they were considering going with youngster Malcolm Subban against the Edmonton Oilers. 

With the Oilers struggles in goal being well documented and trade rumours circulating around the two teams for quite some time now, many felt starting the kid in Edmonton could have been a “showcasing” of sorts for PK’s little brother. Unfortunately for him, he will have to wait a little longer to make his NHL debut but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, as this night belonged to the guy standing down at the other end of the rink. 

To suggest Ben Scrivens has had a rather difficult campaign in 2014-15 would be putting it nicely. After essentially being handed the starters role by Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish, the twenty-eight year old has proven to be ill-equipped to deal with the responsibility and pressure that comes with being a No. 1 goalie in the National Hockey League. 

While there is no question Scrivens has been given far more opportunity than Viktor Fasth, neither one has been very good and after watching the thirty-two year old hurt his knee in a shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets, it appeared as though the former Cornell grad was about to get another chance at playing a bunch of games. That opportunity started last night against the Bruins and to his credit, he delivered one of his finest performances of the season. 

On the surface, there were three things that stood out above all the rest when it comes to yesterday’s 4-3 shootout win over the suddenly reeling B’s. 1) Nail Yakupov scored yet again, 2) Edmonton scored twice on the man advantage, 3) Martin Marincin’s unlikely and frankly lucky winner in the twelfth round of what had been a rather underwhelming and scoreless shootout. 

Having said that, the actual story was how good Scrivens looked in his first game back following an eight day stint on sidelines with bad hamstring. While much of the focus has been placed on his ability to keep the Bruins off the board during the skills competition portion of the evening, in reality it was his play during the opening twenty minutes and a handful of other crucial moments that ultimately proved to be the difference. 

While the Oilers managed to jump out to an early two goal lead, it was their goaltender’s ability to come up with a big a stop when they needed it most that allowed Edmonton to actually believe they could pull this one out. Despite being the better team for much of the first period, one can point to a pair of saves their netminder made as the reason why Edmonton went into the dressing room with a 2-1 advantage. 

With the game still scoreless Scrivens made a brilliant pad save off Carl Soderberg to keep his team from playing catch up and followed that up with a great glove stop off the bewildered Swede to keep Edmonton’s 1-0 lead intact. While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made it a two goal bulge with his fourth goal in as many games with just over four minutes to go and the Oilers on the man advantage, Boston did manage to cut the lead in half with a power play marker of their own in the dying seconds of the period. 

Scrivens came up with another huge save with the his team still nursing a one goal lead, robbing Patrice Bergeron in the slot on a point-blank opportunity, which was quickly followed by a slashing minor to Brad Marchand and Teddy Purcell’s seventh of the season on you guessed it…another power play. You could sense the tide turning but that one save changed everything and Todd Nelson’s crew took full advantage. 

To their credit, Boston found the back of the net with a pair of goals before the period was out to get back on level terms but Scrivens shut the door from that point on. He took it to another level in the third, making what was arguably his finest stop of the evening with a stunning pad save off Marchand midway through the frame, thanks to what was just an absolutely dreadful giveaway from Oscar Klefbom. 

More often than not, that turnover is one that has found its way into the back of the Oilers net with far too great a frequency over the last couple of years and at least for one night, their goaltender was up to the challenge and not surprisingly, the Edmonton Oilers wound up on the right end of the final score. Now if only the general manager of this team could go out and find a guy who can deliver that level of play on a nightly basis, this team could actually start heading in the right direction. 

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