Zero to two, in seven games or less

Jonathan Willis
November 21 2013 07:55AM

It wasn’t all that long ago that “panic” was an apt description of Edmonton’s goaltending situation. Devan Dubnyk was struggling badly, Jason LaBarbera was struggling badly, Richard Bachman was injured and it looked like the men in net were going to flush an otherwise decent season from the Oilers.

There have been developments since.

Devan Dubnyk

The interesting thing is that even as people – myself included – grew more concerned about the situation in net, the biggest part of the turnaround had already happened. There’s a theory that Dubnyk started upping his game after the Oilers signed Ilya Bryzgalov, and while I don’t think the rival’s arrival hurt the process started much earlier.

Let’s break Dubnyk’s season-to-date into three pieces:

  • First four games: 0-3-1, 0.829 save percentage
  • Next seven games: 3-3-0, 0.907 save percentage
  • Last six games: 2-4-0, 0.917 save percentage

The two dividing points in those segments are a) Dubnyk’s worst outing, on October 12 when he allowed six goals on 20 shots vs. Toronto and b) the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov. In total, Dubnyk’s been a 0.912 save percentage goalie since his fourth game of the year, meaning that the solution to the Oilers problems in net had already started being the solution when the level of concern was highest.

Ilya Bryzgalov

When Bryzgalov signed with the Oilers, the consensus view was that he was likely going to be tossed into the fire immediately. Dubnyk’s return to form has meant that isn’t necessary, which is likely good for everyone involved if only because it takes a while to get back up to 100 percent after missing the start of the season.

Bryzgalov is a career 0.913 save percentage goalie, making him a starter-calibre option for many NHL teams. As much as he’s an odd sort, he can stop pucks, and that’s what really matters. If Dubnyk falters for a short time, Bryzgalov can step in; if Dubnyk falters for a long stretch Bryzgalov has the ability to steal the starting gig.

Bryzgalov offers the Oilers the kind of safety net they thought they were getting in Jason LaBarbera, the kind of safety net that a goalie like Marc-Andre Fleury has in Tomas Vokoun in Pittsburgh. If Edmonton opts to continue with Dubnyk beyond this season – something which is unlikely at this juncture – it seems probable the Oilers will insist on hedging their bets.

The two big moves – the return to form for Dubnyk, the acquisition of Bryzgalov – make what was a position of considerable weakness into one of strength. Put another way, the Oilers went from zero plausible starting goalies to two.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 OttawaOilFan
November 22 2013, 07:38AM
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I know I'm late to the party but I guess one thing to consider in all this that maybe people haven't thought about (or maybe haven't voiced yet) is the goalie coach. Has he not been a constant for the Oilers in the last few years? I'm not able to follow the team as closely here in Ottawa as you fine people but when I looked up Chabot on NHL.com I was FLOORED to see that he has exactly 32!!!!!!!!!!!! NHL games under his belt. I know DD hasn't played well to start this season and has those mental lapses we all have seen but is it possible this lack of NHL experience on the part of the goaltending coach plays a part in all this? Just thought I'd throw it out there.

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#102 Dan 1919
November 22 2013, 09:14AM
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OttawaOilFan wrote:

I know I'm late to the party but I guess one thing to consider in all this that maybe people haven't thought about (or maybe haven't voiced yet) is the goalie coach. Has he not been a constant for the Oilers in the last few years? I'm not able to follow the team as closely here in Ottawa as you fine people but when I looked up Chabot on NHL.com I was FLOORED to see that he has exactly 32!!!!!!!!!!!! NHL games under his belt. I know DD hasn't played well to start this season and has those mental lapses we all have seen but is it possible this lack of NHL experience on the part of the goaltending coach plays a part in all this? Just thought I'd throw it out there.

You have a point, there certainly would have been plenty of justification and still is to fire the G coach. But the biggest problem was Dubnyk and his lack of effort. Willis made him seem better than he is in this article. It was well passed the 4 game mark and he was still letting weak, short side goals in from the top of the circle. His save % isn't very indicative, teams put everything on net against the Oil because of Dubnyk's reputation.

Even last night's weak goal, what if it was only 1-0 Oil and they've been playing good but that's all they've managed to get in, then DD does that AGAIN to the team. He's let in weak goals his whole career because he can't bare down and focus. It will be a nice relief to see Bryz come in. DD is a starter on a bad team, or on a good team, an excellent backup that can play more than the average backup and even support the team if the starter is injured.

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#103 Yaz
November 23 2013, 09:41AM
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Unfortunately the damage to the season is already done..24 games complete / 58 remaining.. assuming they are good enough to play.500 hockey til the end and get a few mercy OT loser points that would equate to about 80 points. I hope they are good enough to achieve that based on their play of late but I guess we'll see. The best case scenario is use the year for a lot of rotation with OKC to gauge the talent and get ready for the trade and draft season. It is too late to make any big moves to save this year , the only trades I would make would be if someone comes knocking on the door and it is a good deal for us and does not include any of the kids.

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