Winning, the saying goes, solves everything. While that’s not true, at least as it pertains to a flawed team like the Edmonton Oilers, three straight victories has, at the very least, taken some of the edge off a decidedly and rightfully unhappy fan base.
After being booed off the ice by fans at Rexall Place just a week or so ago, the Oilers filed into their dressing room after a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers Thursday and a 7-0 whitewash of the Columbus Blue Jackets to ovations from a capacity crowd. The Oilers started this much-needed three-game respite from futility with a win down the highway in Calgary.
In the big picture that is an 82-game NHL season, 7-15-2 isn’t a whole lot better than the 4-15-2 record the Oilers took into this little roll, but it sure feels like it. It most certainly changes, however temporarily, the way fans feel about themselves and their hockey team today.
It might even have you feeling better about goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has been a lightning rod for criticism after a decidedly horrendous start to the season. Fans have to be pretty happy with Dubnyk’s performance during this three game stretch – the same people who were losing their minds after his first three games of the season.
Statistically speaking, Dubnyk is neither as inept as he appeared in those first three games (and several more along the way) nor the Vezina Trophy candidate he’s looked like in the last three. When the dust settles after 82 games, I suspect Dubnyk will end up somewhere in the middle.
One extreme to the Other
Anybody who is saying, “Thanks for that insight, Captain Obvious,” might want to take a look at some of the comments sections here from early in the season, be it Dubnyk’s first three outings, or even the first month, for that matter. He was a bum. A joke. A brutal embarrassment. On and on.
While fans and media types are prone to qualifying their observations with “small sample size” these days, that pretty much went out the window as the venom was spewed here and on radio call-in shows when Dubnyk led the collective early season face plant. I don’t mind the passion, by any means, but it’s funny how a start abysmal beyond words plays hell with a reasoned approach when it comes to fandom.
Dubnyk allowed 13 goals on 85 shots in the first three games he played, recording Andre Racicot-like save percentages of .821, .839 and .885 in those games. In his last three games, Dubnyk has stopped 71 of 74 shots, going .943, 1.000 and, against the Panthers, .960.
With 157 games in the books (all on a bad team), I think it’s safe to say we know what Dubnyk is – even if many forgot it for the first 18 games or so. In 2010-11, Dubnyk’s save percentage was .916. In 2011-12 it was .914, followed by .920 last season. The numbers, again on miserable teams, show him to be a good, not great, NHL starter.
A good team, which the Oilers aren’t yet, can win with Dubnyk. When this season is over, I’d be willing to wager that Dubnyk, who sits at 6-10-1 with an .896 save percentage today, falls right where he has the previous three seasons – in the .914 to .920 range.
Right in the middle between a rail car out of town and a Vezina Trophy.
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
I can’t figure out fans in this town when it comes to their perceptions of the media, although much of how they view the jobs being done by scribes and broadcasters is obviously based on how good or bad the Oilers are playing at any given time.
Reporters not willing to seek out Kevin Lowe and ask him why the hell he refuses to step down right now, if not bloody sooner – usually after a loss — are fartcatchers and yes-men. Bought and paid for. Mouthpieces for the team and blah, blah, blah. And why don’t we ask Sam Gagner why he sucks so bad? What the hell is wrong with “you guys.”
Then, when a reporter, namely Ryan Rishaug of TSN, presses Ilya Bryzgalov about why the Philadelphia Flyers paid him $23 million to go away and not play for them anymore, he’s being an ass and a showboat and picking on the wrong guy because he just got here (and isn’t Kevin Lowe).
There was nothing wrong with the line of questioning Rishaug and others pursued with Bryzgalov during his first availability here. Those questions were asked and answered (very well by Bryzgalov, I thought). Then, you move on and judge Bryzgalov, as he suggested, by whatever his body of work turns out to be this season.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.