I understand that fans of the Edmonton Oilers don’t particularly want their ranting and raving about Devan Dubnyk interrupted by a "look on the bright side" item right now. Fair enough.
Dubnyk, after all, has earned much of the criticism and scorn directed his way through his first four appearances this season with a shockingly inept, sieve-like performance – an abysmal .829 save percentage and a hideous goals-against average of 5.43.
Likewise, I completely get it why fans, who’ve endured seven years out of the playoffs, have been venting since Dubnyk again soiled the sheets in a 6-5 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday, even if much of the venom directed his way is over the top, unreasonable and out of proportion.
"Dubnyk has stunk like ripe limburger so far." This is true. No question about it, and the TV shot at the end of the Toronto game of GM Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe after taking another big whiff of it served as an exclamation mark. "Dubnyk has always sucked and he always will suck." Not true. The second part, we don’t know yet.
There are no excuses for the way Dubnyk has played. He’s the reason the Oilers are 1-3-1 and have three of a possible 10 points. He gets no pass and if he doesn’t turn things around in a hurry he likely won’t get the chance to turn them around at all – at least not as a starter in Edmonton. If Dubnyk doesn’t do something, MacTavish must. All of this we know.
All of the above said, and allowing that we’re only talking about five games out of 82 going into Monday’s game in Washington, the Oilers have been far better in some areas that have been a concern for several seasons. They’ve addressed some issues. They are doing things right that don’t show up in that 1-3-1 record while everybody groans about Dubnyk.
. . . The Oilers have dominated in the face-off circles after being bottom feeders for far too long. Unexpected? You think? Boyd Gordon leads the way at 62.9. Mark Arcobello is next at 60.5, followed by Will Acton at 57.1, Taylor Hall at 52.8 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 50.8. Yes, again it’s just five games, but if five games is enough to get in a frenzy about Dubnyk it’s enough games to recognize, in context, what’s been going right.
. . . After being outshot in all but 11 games last season, the Oilers have outshot their opposition in four of the five games they’ve played. All told, they’ve been outshot 150-147, meaning they’re about dead-even overall despite being outshot 43-23 against Vancouver.
. . . The Oilers have scored nine goals five-on-five and two more while playing four-on-four, meaning they haven’t been getting outclassed at even strength, as was the norm last season under Ralph Krueger. At the same time, the power play is clicking at a 5-for-20 clip.
THE WAY I SEE IT
While fixating on the goaltending the Oilers haven’t been getting so far is understandable, the Oilers are playing better hockey under Dallas Eakins than they did under Krueger or Tom Renney. Not perfect hockey, not by a long shot, but better hockey.
If the Oilers keep holding their own on the shot clock and continue winning more face-offs than they lose, chances are we aren’t going to see the majority of five-game stretches play out at 1-3-1. That’s assuming, of course, Dubnyk or MacTavish address the issue in the blue paint.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.