Zero to two, in seven games or less

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.

  • I tried it at home

    Im going to put this as simply as I can. I used to be a BIG DD supporter. Now I want him gone. He cost us this season, and you can scream stats at me for hours, how he wasnt the only one, blah blah blah. He cost us the playoffs. End of story, full stop. Thanks for everything, its been a slice, bedt of luck. Goodbye.

    • I’m not a huge Dubnyk fan, but I don’t see how Dubnyk cost the team the season; he cost them 4 games at most – the rest is on the team. Dubnyk is what he is; a middle of the road starting goalie.

      It seems everyone is expecting to get some sort of saviour in the net and I just don’t see that happening. There are a few elite goalies in this league and who is going to give them up? Certainly not a Western Conference team without a huge overpay.

      • camdog

        Mason went from an awful goalie in Columbus to putting up All-Star numbers in Philly. At the same time Emery went from awesome numbers in Chicago to garbage numbers in Philly. Goalies are a weird breed. With 75% of them their success is determined by confidence and there teams defensive zone coverage.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I’ve never been a Dubey fan either, but some of this has to fall on this group of blueliners the Oilers currently employ.

      With both the 1 and 2 D postions vacant on this hockey club, it’s hard to judge who’s doing their job to expectation, and who’s not.

      Wandering in the desert, still looking for a second line center and 2 top pairing blueliners. If they don’t make a deal or two for these important positions, it’ll be 5 yrs before they can grow some of their own and be competitive again.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          No sir. Never thought of it from that perspective. Just figured it as some sortof symbolic way to take control of those offices on Kingsway (Oiler management hideaway)….all of our problems would be solved.

          50 bucks worth of gasoline and dynamite is the only thing that stands between the current Oiler state, and respectability again.

          Seasons beatings from your fellow hockey brethren in the great white north/Canada eh.

          • Johnnydapunk

            Hope you are thinking that’s all you need for their offices in Kingsway as you will need a stupid amount more if they are practising in Rexall. When they did that feasibility study a few years back to determine if it is worth renovating the old arena, according to the surveyors and architects Rexall was surprisingly well maintained and I had read somewhere else that it is practically bombproof 🙂

  • Spydyr

    So does the team take the chance Dubnyk craps the bed again at the start of next season? I think not. Unless he becomes world class the rest of the season he is as good as gone.

  • PrairieDog19

    I’m a Duby fan, and I think that if Edmonton holds on to him and is patient with his growth, it will pay dividends in the future. He needs two things: 1. His team to play better in front of him – defensively the team has been atrocious. 2. He needs a round in the playoffs – Historically, goaltenders have improved drastically after exposure to the intense level of play in the playoffs (see B. Ranford, B. Holtby, J. Reimer). I think that one notch up in the intensity scale is exactly what Dubnyk needs to become an elite goalie. Of course, he’s not getting to the playoffs unless the team in front of him gets better. His career save percentage suggests that he’s doing his part to get them there.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    My opinion of any professional athlete, in this case Dubnyk is, if he is as good of a goalie to play at this level, he should not need to feel his job is in jeopardy to play better. His performance should be optimal 100% of the time. Part of the reason the Oil are in 29th place is the team in general, and defence in particular, and the other part is the horrendous goaltending

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    i for one am happy that Dubnyk has found his return to form. Bryzgalov better buy a few thermos, he’s got some time on the bench coming.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I see a lot of love for Dubbie here. He will still never take any team to the promise land. Lets not get excited about the shut out against the Jackets. 14 shots and they played crappy. Forget his numbers You can have great numbers but if you don’t make that save when your team needs it you aren’t good enough. A bad goal depletes a team in a hurry and that is what Dubbie does Deplete the team with allowing bad goals

  • geoilersgist

    I always had faith Dubnyk would turn it around. I’m glad that he has and I hope he continues to play good hockey. The team appears to be getting confidence again hopefully these last two games indicate they have turned the corner and are on the upswing.

  • S cottV

    Goaltending was not as big an issue as the glaring scoring chances that were being given up by the poorly executed swarm system, poor puck management and a general lack of commitment to a defensive mindset on transition. If you expect your goaltenders to consistently perform, you have to support them – not expose them left and right. DD’s better numbers have more to do with scrapping most of the swarm and the team playing a little smarter in front of him, although still a long ways to go. Stupidity – was giving up 2 goals a game at the start + goaltending giving up 2 (normal) = 4 GA’s and you lose most games, particularly with less than stellar productivity from the top 6. If you consistently give up 2 unnecessary goals per game due to lack of reasonable goalie support – your goalie is going to get pretty depressed. If you generally support your goaltender and he gets thrown the odd point blank scoring chance – he probably covers it off. The Oilers do not play with disciplined systems and until that happens, it will appear as if we just aren’t getting the goaltending.

  • CMG30

    All goalies have a slump here and there, the important thing is that they come out of it and don’t have too many.

    The real question in my mind is that if Dubnyk can post a .913 on a team playing truly horrendous defense in front of him, what’s his numbers going to be like if he’s signed by another team that actually plays well in front of him?

  • CMG30

    If Dubnyk continues to play the way he has he will get a new contract with the Oilers. Much of his problems earlier in the year where the result of horrendous team defence in front of him because of the confusion with the coaches new system. He was also getting used to new equipment and recovering from a ankle injury.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Goaltending is the one wildcard position in hockey. Some of the greatest at the position were either buried or forgotten by one organization only to “see the light” somewhere else. Dominik Hasek (the best goalie I’ve ever seen) was a late bloomer who was buried behind Ed Belfour & Jimmy Waite in Chicago. He went to Buffalo as a backup to Tom Draper (remember him) & Grant Fuhr. He didn’t become a starter till age 28 and the record speaks for itself. Frankly for me, luck plays as much of a factor as all the scouting in the world when it comes to goalies.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i don’t believe the Oilers are going to go forward with Dubnyk. i think they will throw some serious cash at UFA’s Hiller or Halak instead this coming summer.

    • Based on comments from MacT and how he was actively pursuing other options, I agree, Dubnyk will always be at best his second choice. Personally I’m not convinced that Hiller or Halak would make a huge difference to this team, they aren’t much better than DD currently on better teams.

  • Devan Dubnyk is a good average (middle of the pack) starting goalie. I don’t see him being an elite goalie and I’m not sure that this team needs that once their defense gets sorted out. There was no doubt he was dreadful at the beginning of the season, but a lot of goalies go through some of that and there were lots of little factors that could have affected him like the equipment change, newborn at home etc. If you had big equipment and you stood in a position and the puck hit you last year, you do the same this year, it might not hit you anymore so adjustments are needed. Of course that should have been taken into consideration in the offseason.

  • Word to the Bird

    I agree with Mike above that Bryz is more a replacement for Labarbera then Dubnyk. As Jonathon points out in his article, Dubs first four games were horrible, very small sample size. Remeber that Labarbera cintributed to the Oils horrible starting record. If Dubs can continue to play like he has been playing, I think that MacT will offer another contract to him. It may only happen near the end of the season and it may not be as high as it could have been but I firmly believe that MacT will make that offer.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I hope Bryz gets in soon and really plays well here. He will be a great asset to trade at the trade dead line along with Hemsky, N. Schultz and Potter. We might be able get some real interesting parts to our team for next year from teams trying to load up for playoffs.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Right from the start I’ve viewed Bryzgalov as a replacement for Labarbera, not Dubnyk, and it makes it look like a much better decision (albeit one that should have been made in July rather than November). If we come out of this with one competent starting goalie I’m happy.

  • pkam

    Dubnyk is returning to form as most rational fans should have forseen. Also, by my eye, the 10 bell chances have been reduced which also helps the old save percentage.
    The notion that an athlete such as Dubnyk plays poorly and then “turns it on” when he is threatened with job loss is silly. It just doesn’t work that way…if it did Tiger would win every game…no every hole.
    Bryz “may” improve the goalie depth but there are no guarantees…seems he wasn’t so good in Philly even though I’m sure he was trying his best…i guess that’s debatable! Anyway wait and see BUT the Oilers have no slack to work a goalie into their game….he’ll need to be bang on his game off the getty go!

  • Word to the Bird

    DD should not be in the starting role. We always go on about sample size and although he has had minor increases as of late, his overall sample size is NOT above average in the NHL. I am a believer that a goalie cannot win games, the offence does. The goalie however can lose games in a dramatic fashion as DD has ALWAYS done. Too many inexcusable soft goals from too far out. Our problem in net is twofold. 1) our FWD lines need to put more past the opposing goalies and 2) DD needs to stop letting in easy goals. Too many goals are scored on him high glove. Too many. He is too small in the net, has no lateral movement and his style of dropping to the knee is cumbersome and a hindrance to a goalie of his size and mobility issues. We need a better goalie period, and Bryz, unfortunately is not the answer.

        • Pretty sure he is responding to this:
          “The goalie however can lose games in a dramatic fashion as DD has ALWAYS done”

          Notice how you used capitals to emphasize that so we’d all notice.

          I’m not sure why there is so much negativity on this site; sure the team sucks, but it is just a game of millionaires for billionaires so not sure why so many people take it so personally.

          • camdog

            Again, I will use sample size. One 7-0 shutout does not win a cup. Does Gagners 8 pt game against CHI make him Gretzky? No. Why? because of sample size. Lets take Gretzkys worst game and put it up against the 8 pt night of Sammy. Who do you want to play for you? Its not rocket appliances batman. The larger the sample size, the better predictor you have of the future. DD career sv% is .911. Take that number, which is much more impressive than his current .982, and slap it into the 2013-2014 league and you have him at 42nd place in the league. 42! that is about as good as a mid range backup.

          • pkam

            If you slap his .911 into the 2013-14 season, it will put Dubnyk tied with Howard at 25th, not 42nd. And it is just behind Luongo and Niemi, and all 3 goalies have much better defense in front of them than Dubnyk had for the past few years.

          • Spoils

            try reordering the league by sv% first. Howard has the 40th best %, Luongo 36 and Niemi 39. His .911 career with 474 shots against this year puts him at 42 GA, or 62 out of 72 active goalies this year. Abysmal.

          • pkam

            GA is more an indication of the defense. If you defense allow more shots, it is more likely the goalie will allow more goals. SV%, although not totally reliable, is the more relevant goalie stats.

            And you said ‘if we slap his .911 SV%’, didn’t you? And that is exactly what I do. If you want to use the complete list, then Dubnyk is tied at 40 with Howard, just 3 spots behind Luongo and 1 spot behind Niemi. And that is behind a much weaker defense group.

          • wiseguy

            no, shots against is a better reflection on defense. GA is more goalie related, but tied to SV%. Cant be any more simpler. That is hockey 101. 11 goalies this year have faced more shots than your beloved DD. Only one of them has let in more goals, but that is ok, because the goalie with 53 goals against has more wins, better SV% and a better GA avg. Oh, and his team is 5th in the league, 3rd in division and Mike Smith has more than twice the wins the entire Oilers organization has. You see, the more shots you face (163 more to be exact) the better chance you have of saving more.

          • pkam

            Did you finish high school math?

            GA is a function of SA and SV%. If SV% remains constant, then GA will go up when SA goes up. If our defense can lower the number of shots, the GA will go down. Can this be any simpler?

          • pkam

            If they are odd man rushes (break – aways, 2 in 1’s, 3 in 2’s), then yes the defense has to take responsibility for them. There have been games this season where I’ve seen an opposition skate standing all alone for half a minute 2 ft or less from the oilers crease. That’s nits the goalies fault, it’s the guy who was supposed to be covering him not doing his own thing.

          • pkam

            If all 6 go it, the goalie SV% is 0. That is sufficient indication of the goalie performance.

            Using your argument, if our defense allow 100 shots and our goalie stop 96 and let in 4, does it mean our goalie is terrible?

            Even the SV% is not 100% becasue we can’t factor in quality of shots and number of quality chances. 100 perimeter shots are not the same as 100 shots from the slot, or 100 break away. But at least SV% is more relevant to goalie performance than GA, which in my opinion is not an reflection of the goalie performance at all.

          • pkam

            if DD let in 4 of 100 then he would have a .960 save % which would clearly put him at the top of the league. Then I would be arguing shots against is a problem. At his current .892, he would be letting in 10+ goals per game. Our kids cannot score at that pace.

          • pkam

            I am not talking about Dubnyk’s performance this year. I am just saying GA is the wrong stat for goalie performance. SV% is the more meaningful stat. I couldn’t care if he let in 4 or 1 goal per game, if his SV% is around 0.915, he is average. Better than .915 is better than average, as simple as that.

            No question he has a terrible start this year. But he has been at least average or better in his last 10 games. And I believe at the end of the year, he will be .915 or better.

          • pkam

            ….beats head off wall…..

            the amount of shots the defense lets by is a defensive stat. the amount of those that go in is a goalie stat. Yes they correlate, but to say that GA is a defensive stat is beyond being acceptable. If a team lets in 50 shots game after game after game and the goalie is lights out and stops every single on, would you say you have a good defense? NO. Your argument is correct up until it is proven wrong. SA is defense and GA is goalies. plain and simple. If we had a better goalie, our GAA would be better. Until our goalies can reduce the amount of shots, I guess we keep these stats separated until we have both a better d corps and goalie staff.

          • pkam

            If that is your argument, then you shouldn’t mention GA at all because goalie’s performance is mainly represented by SV%. GA is a result of SA and really has nothing to do with the goalie performance.

          • pkam

            I think you have to take into consideration “quality of shots” as well. Two teams can both allow 30 shots on a night, but one could have given up 20 good scoring opportunities while the other could have given up 5.

            So both defenses would be “equal” according to your reasoning, but a shot total doesn’t tell the whole story.

            Unfortunately there is no good stat that tells you quality of shots, but just watching the Oilers and how many times this year opposing players have been wide open in the slot, I imagine the Oilers give up more high quality chances per shot taken than most teams.

          • camdog

            Ahh but BleedinOil is using guys that have played one game in their NHL career in his stats, it’s about sample size after all… lol

            I believe DD is a 20-30 goalie in this league right now, not 42.

          • pkam

            I will play your game. DD has 17 starts – there are 13 other goalies with that or more. out of those 14 goalies, DD’s .911 career is 12th best out of the 14 and his 2013-2014 .892 is the worst. His .911 would place him in the bottom 15% in the league. How mush more proof do you need. Stop arguing and just agree that DD is NOT the Goalie we need to take us to the playoffs.

  • Word to the Bird

    It bothers me that Dubnyk never seems to step up his game when we have a chance at the playoffs. It’s almost as if the only time he starts to play well is when we’re out of a playoff spot. As for Bryz, he’s a complete wildcard. I don’t think we can say Bryz is a reliable option just yet…

    • Word to the Bird

      From what I can remember, the Oilers were serious playoff contenders only once since Dubnyk started playing for the Oilers. They were in a playoff spot and then proceeded to lose 9 out of the next ten games.

      Dubnyk played in 7 of those games and had a .913 save percentage (not great, but not bad either). The Oilers scored a grand total of 12 goals in those 7 games (and only 13 goals in that entire 10 game stretch) and were outshot in every one of those 10 games.

      I would say the offense and overall team play let the Oilers down…Dubnyk was actually decent and gave his team a chance to win a lot of those games despite their poor play.