With the Edmonton Oilers winning two straight games to move within four points of the Toronto Maple Leafs atop the Dive For Five, it’s time for me to write about how well Jeff Deslauriers has been playing.
Didn’t I put it out there a long time ago, to a cacophony of braying by the naysayers, that my considerable gut told me Deslauriers had the stuff to be the Oilers starter for years to come? Well, didn’t I?
Now, after his last two starts, a 22-save performance in a 2-0 shutout over New Jersey Sunday and a 28-save gem in a 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota Friday, can there be any question that JDD is the real goods? No. None. He’s put doubt so far up the chute we’ll need a flashlight and map to find it. I was right. Not the first time.
There. That should pretty much guarantee Deslauriers falls out of his groove and into a clown suit in time to stickhandle his way into all kinds of grief against the Ottawa Senators at Rexall Place Tuesday.
That leaves Devan Dubnyk to get blitzed in Montreal Thursday to kick-off a four-game road trip before Deslauriers returns to the crease to be embarrassed by the Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday.
That’s a three-game toot that should just about lock down 30th place and no worse than second pick in the 2010 Entry Draft for the Oilers, which is the whole point of the last 17 games, no?
Don’t say I don’t care.
WHAT UP, JDD?
As anybody paying attention knows, I’m no frontrunner when it comes to Deslauriers. I’ve been lauding him as being a capable NHL starter, be it with the Oilers or elsewhere, for a long time — prematurely, many have argued, and they’d probably have a point.
That said, there’s no question in my mind he’s shown the ability to be that guy when he’s on top of his game. Likewise, Deslauriers has shown an uncanny knack of soiling the sheets every time I sing his praises. It’s like clockwork.
Consistency is what eludes Deslauriers, and that’s no small matter. Regardless how good JDD is at the top end, he’s had too many off-nights to convince those making the decisions he can be the guy. The challenge for him in these final 17 games is to eliminate the huge swings in his performance.
"Consistency is the big thing," Oilers goaltending coach Frederic Chabot said today, stating the obvious. "That’s what makes you a No. 1 in this league and in any league."
With a 14-22-3 record, a 3.06 goals-against average and a .903 saves percentage, Deslauriers has been all over the map. Three shutouts in 39 games is pretty good on a team with 21 wins. So was the five-game winning streak he put together in December. The last two games? Looks like a No. 1 to me.
But Deslauriers has also had a six-game losing streak and a pair of four-game skids. Too many bad goals. His worst night, allowing four goals on 11 shots in a 7-3 loss to Vancouver, came in the game before he started his five-game winning streak.
If — I say when — Deslauriers consistently tightens up the difference between his best and worst performances, he’ll be on to something. Having a handful of nights stopping pucks at a clip of .940 mirrored by as many nights at .840 keeps everybody guessing. If he can be around .910 most games for the rest of the season, he’ll be fine.
The item I wrote about the possibility of Ryan Whitney needing surgery on his right foot at some point to correct the defect he already had repaired in his left foot didn’t sit well with some fans.
The item sparked all kinds of name-calling and poop-throwing over at HF Boards, where somebody calling themselves "hockeyaddict101" made a point of being an ass-wipe, even though I was careful with the wording I used.
If I’m not mistaken, this person posted here a few times, but hasn’t visited lately. Maybe I was rude. That’s a good bet, I suppose. Anyway, maybe that’s what prompted this person to go on endlessly about yellow journalism, irresponsible speculation, what a freakin’ hack I am and blah, blah, blah. Whatever.
While I doubt Whitney will require surgery before the end of the season, I’m thinking hockeyaddict101 will be eating crow by the end of April. Let’s wait and see.
- I didn’t see Nik Khabibulin at the rink this morning, but at the start of practice there was a table of jerseys and photos laid out for him to sign. By the time reporters wandered down to the dressing room after the skate, the stuff was autographed. And there’s no truth to the rumour Khabibulin is changing his jersey number from 35 to .16.
- Am I reaching for positives, or have Tom Gilbert and Marc Pouliot been playing their best hockey since the Olympic break? I’ve especially liked Gilbert alongside Whitney, which I didn’t see as a match on paper before Pat Quinn put them together.
- The oddest item I saw left out for a player to sign today was one of the bags the Oilers use to carry their equipment on the road. The well-worn bag in question was that of captain Ethan Moreau.
- I don’t know about the rest of you, but if Fernando Pisani is willing to take a haircut and re-sign here for $750,000, I wouldn’t be against Steve Tambellini re-signing him. Not one penny more.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.