Sunday, November 02, 2014

Goaltending, Goaltending, Goaltending

So here we are. Eleven games into their 2014-15 schedule and the Edmonton Oilers look to be a slightly better hockey team than they were a year ago but not surprisingly, it has made next to no difference when it comes to their place in the Western Conference standings. 

The inconsistent play we have seen upfront and along the blueline were expected but in the eyes of many, it has been the struggles of Ben Scrivens who has caught many an Oilers fan off-guard. As much as the masses would love for the former Toronto Maple Leafs netminder to be the answer to this organization’s goaltending woes, expecting him to be something he is not was and remains a major mistake. 

While Craig MacTavish and the rest of his management team have tried to sell the idea of the tandem of Viktor Fasth and Scrivens as some sort of upgrade from what we have seen from Devan Dubnyk over the last few years, the reality of the situation tells a completely different story. After starting off the year with a trio of dreadful performances and rebounding with a nice run of games on the Oilers now concluded seven game home stand, many were hoping the former Cornell University grad was ready to start shouldering the load of being Dallas Eakins’ No. 1 guy in between the pipes. 

Unfortunately what we saw from Scrivens during last night’s 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks was what we have come to expect from goaltenders wearing an Orange and Blue sweater in big games. As if the massive blunder on the game-winner wasn’t already bad enough, the ugly rebounds that led directly to Vancouver’s other two goals were arguably just as backbreaking for this team to try and overcome on a night in which they deserved a far better fate. 

As solid as the guy wearing the No. 30 on his back has been over the last couple of weeks, Scrivens has been downright terrible in four of his ten appearances over the opening month of season, has already cost this team anywhere from four to six points in the standings and is 0-5 in his starts against Western Conference opponents. Sorry but those are not numbers of a legitimate National Hockey League starting goaltender and because of it, Edmonton finds themselves in the situation they currently sit. 

To his credit, the twenty-eight year old played a large part in the Oilers bouncing back from their 0-4-1 start to the year with a four game win streak but this notion that he was the sole purpose they came away with wins from each of those games was completely inaccurate. As a collective unit, the Oilers have played a far better brand of hockey since returning home and because of it…found ways to win games. It is not a though they had no business beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens. Outside of leaning on their goaltender during the final frame of their victory over the Caps and Alex Ovechkin, it was a complete team effort. 

Having said all that, Edmonton needed to walk away with two points from last night’s clash with a division rival and as usual, their goaltender was unable to come up with the performance they needed to help get them over that hump. It is all well and good to come out with a solid effort when there is no place to go but up…however, it is quite another to raise your level of play when the pressure to win hockey games actually means something in the standings. 

A win over Vancouver would have given this team a .500 record on the year and a 5-2 mark on their home stand, with a tough five game swing in their immediate future. Instead, they will now head out east on two game losing skid, without their best player in the lineup and yet another two points that were given away thanks to their goaltending. 

Goaltending is something that has plagued this organization for the last number of years and until it is actually addressed, this team is going nowhere. Simply pretending as though the problem doesn’t exist and hoping that it will eventually correct itself can no longer be an acceptable approach for this organization. 

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