Ben Scrivens’ house appears to be in order

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There is nothing that can kill a team faster than bad goaltending, and nothing that can save it faster than great goaltending. Early in the year, the Oilers lost games they should have won because their netminders simply weren’t up to the challenge. On Wednesday night they won a game they should have lost because Ben Scrivens was in fine form.

One Week Earlier

Ben Scrivens gets called “the Professor” and listening to him talk it isn’t hard to figure out why. Oilers fans have had some intelligent, well-spoken men on their hockey teams throughout history, but very few just get it the way Scrivens does. Generally, it’s hard to say meaningful things in the environment of the post-game interview, but the one with Scrivens last Wednesday following a disastrous showing in Arizona was brilliant.

His balanced, rational assessment of where the team was at didn’t play well on Twitter the night of that game, but it looks pretty reasonable in retrospect. Even at the time it was easy to appreciate Scrivens’ objective assessment of his own play:

I can’t throw anybody under the bus when I’m playing like that. I’ve got to take care of my own house first. That being said, again, we played really well for stretches; we had just a shift or two like that. Seems like every shift we have like that it ends up in the back of the net. That falls on guys like me; that’s my job to try and make a save there, too. We’re definitely not pointing fingers in this room. When we start to win, which will happen, we’re going to win as a group. It’s not going to be one guy leading us, it’s going to be as a group. When things aren’t going well and we’re going through these growing pains we’re coming together, we’re sticking together as a group; it’s not a finger-pointing thing in here. We obviously all know individually we have to shore some stuff up, myself included.

Before and After

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Scrivens’ poor start to the year can’t be put entirely on him; team defence (he fairly cited management of the puck in the defensive zone) played a role, as did circumstance. Opening night against Calgary went badly. Viktor Fasth got hurt against L.A., which meant that Scrivens was tossed into the fire; it also meant that instead of facing Arizona fresh he came in having played the night before, a situation which the analytics shows has a massive impact on save percentage.

All told, he allowed 14 goals on 70 shots over two starts and one relief appearance. Immediately following the quote above, Scrivens had this exchange with a reporter:

  • Reporter: “What are you not doing? Last year you had some unbelievable games.”
  • Scrivens: “It’s two games.”
  • Reporter: “A lot of goals in two games, though.”
  • Scrivens: “So? It’s still two games.”

In the three contests since, Scrivens has surrendered five goals on 87 shots against. Putting it another way, the opposition has gone from scoring on one in every five shots it takes to putting away one on every 17.

So? It’s Still Just Three Games.

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Scrivens isn’t going to keep up the 0.943 save percentage he’s posted over his last three starts – his career-to-date suggests a solid goalie, not a reborn and slightly improved version of Dominik Hasek. But both he and the team really needed him to deliver this kind of performance.

The problem with losing is that everything becomes suspect. Even in a good performance, a goalie can be accused of fighting the puck, as Scrivens was in first the Vancouver game and then the Tampa Bay game. I heard less of it post-Washington, and the longer Scrivens can play well the more confidence there will be in his abilities.

As important as confidence is, it’s less relevant than results. Last year’s team got off to a terrible start and the goaltenders involved never recovered – both Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera found their way to the minors by the end of the year. When both of a team’s legitimate NHL options implode, there’s almost no way to recover the season; even a legitimately great team like the 2005-06 Oilers nearly missed the playoffs when the tandem of Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen collapsed.

The Oilers needed one of their goalies to turn things around. With Viktor Fasth hurt, that task has fallen to Ben Scrivens. As always, beware of small sample sizes, but he’s found a way to succeed despite some very public early failures. It may not be enough to salvage the season, but it’s been enough to keep 2014-15 from being a definite write-off just seven games in.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • BlazingSaitls

    Regardless of the sample-size, or lack there of, I think Ben Scrivens is a good goalie. I am happy The Professor is a goalie for our Edmonton Oilers.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    scrivens has a roloson-type attitude/effect. we are not supposed to like him or he succeed but they battle. still, I don’t like his rebound control and he is quite often on his knees….but they most of all need some proper dmen, Justin Schultz is worse than terrible on D – but would make a great #1rw

  • Spoils

    i’d be interested to understand the types of goalies (goalie style, athletic ability, type/level of intelligence, strength etc. etc.) that predominates in goalies that are great young and goalies that bloom later in life, and all variations of that.

    the Rollie/Tim Thomas type that seem to really be special late in their careers… I wonder if we might have that with Scrivens.

    He has been a backup or 1B for his NHL run. But the flashes of brilliance – Sharks 50+ saves last year etc. elude to a potential winner.

    fingers crossed.

  • D

    Kind of reminds me of the same pattern we saw when Roloson arrived. The first few games he looked really shaky, then he shut the door for the rest of the season.

  • It never ceases to amaze me how normally sane human beings lose all perspective when they become fans of a hockey team.

    Scrivens is exactly on the mark with his statements. He has played about 4 games this season and people are jumping on and off his bus so fast it looks like a Chinese Fire Drill. Scrivens is a good goalie. If he wasn’t he would not be in the NHL. While he will have off games, he will, over the course of the year, once again prove that he belongs.

    Of far greater concern to me is the gaping hole at centre and the inability of Ference to even resemble an NHL player, must less the captain of an NHL team. He shows poor judgment for a veteran, is moved off the puck easily, and simply does not appear to read the play well. Good luck to Eakins and MacT with that albatross.

  • Who could forget that 59 shot shut out!

    I remember thinking I had to be up early for work, then Scrivens stopped like 3 more shots and about that time Hall and Eberle jumped into the net I decided sleep could wait.

    Keep it up Professor! We need you now more than ever.

  • He had a good quote last night about the team in front of him for their play in the first 4 games. Something to the effect of, at first the team would have a few lapses and those cost us, but then we started playing where we were supposed to be, just a half step behind the opposition, since the Vancouver game, everyone has been where they need, when they need, and that’s why we’re seeing results.

    I would also add, Fayne and Marincin are finally getting decent minutes as opposed to Hunt and Schultz / Nurse and Schultz.

    If Scrivens is called the professor, Eakins should be called the experiment. It chaps me to think that only slightly better managerial decisions could easily mean another win on the books right now for the oilers, maybe even 2.

    Good for Scrivens though proving he has the stuff.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Montreal is tied for 1st in the league at 6-1-0. That game might be a little tougher than I was thinking. Carolina is the only team yet to win, let’s not pop their cherry this season.

    • pkam

      Last year, we are 3-6-1 after 10 games. We are 2-4-1 after 7 games now.

      If we have one win in the next 3 games, we will be at the same position as last year. If we blow the game against the Canes, we may do even worse than last year.

      Let’s hope we are doing better than 1 win in the next 3, 5 out of 6 points and we will be 500.

    • ubermiguel

      A 6-1 eastern team is like a 4-2 western team. So, it will be like playing the Canucks.

      Therefore, its winnable if the Oil don’t have any major braincramps.

  • CMG30

    Scrivens is good enough as a goalie because he gives the team a chance to win most nights. As someone said before, his rebound control seems a little suspect but I’m sure he’s working on it.

    Going forward he will have some great games and some bad games but as long as most of his games are NHL average, it will give the Oil a chance to win those games. This is what you have to expect from your goalie and it’s up to the rest of the team to bail him out when one of those (hopefully rare) bad games pops up.

    I still don’t know what happened with Dubnyk last year. I thought he would shake it off but he never really did and it eventually buried the team by November. Personally I think that MacT’s comments about “having to ask the question” got in his head, killed his confidence and got the whole snowball rolling. Playing goal is a lonely position because it’s just you. Once you stop believing in yourself, you’re done!

    • pkam

      Regarding Dubnyk’s performance last year, I wonder how much of that has to do with having a new baby in the summer.

      I remember I had my first son in the last year of my study at NAIT (about 1.5 months before the final exams), the marks in my final exams dropped about 10% and my GPA dropped by 3%. It is both physically and mentally draining.

      • ubermiguel

        My marks did the same thing when my kids came along but I’ll bet Dubnyk could afford a nanny and someone to clean the house every week unlike me. If that guy was up at 3 am feeding and changing diapers he’s an idiot because it ruined his career.

        • pkam

          It is the first born, you don’t have experience and the result is unrealistic expectation.

          Honestly, I didn’t anticipate it to be that bad. I thought I could handle it quite easily so even if I could afford, I probably wouldn’t hire a nanny.

          So I learned my lesson and paid the price, and I don’t expect Dubnyk to be any smarter than me.

          • camdog

            Seriously DD is doing just fine as a back up in Phoenix. He’d be an upgrade over Fasth who’s always injured, as the Oilers back up.

            Horcoff, Gilbert and DD are doing well, Gagner, Hemsky and Paaravi are struggling mightily.

          • YFC Prez

            DD an upgrade eh? I haven’t really been paying attention to DD since he was shipped out but you really can’t compare a goalie playing with Phoenix’s d in front of him to the oilers. Remember how good Ty Conklin looked in Detroit ?

            I like Dubnyk but he absolutely had to go. He was horrible last year.

            Scribbles> Fasth>Dubnyk.

            That’s based on their performance on a oilers team.

        • A-Mc

          Did you seriously just infer that it was idiotic for a father to take care of his new born child because he could afford to pay someone else to instead?

          You may have just redefined the meaning of Idiot.

          • ubermiguel

            One parent can miss changing some diapers and playing patty-cake so they can provide a better life for their family in the future. Tonnes of guys working in Fort Mac have made that choice. Or guys that take all the OT shifts they can. Or guys that work two or three jobs. I stand by my comment.

          • ubermiguel

            No, he inferred that perhaps its unwise to be on diaper patrol during the most important time in DD’s career, and that it would be wise to get some help if he can afford it.

            Makes a lot of sense to me and doesn’t mean that the man does not love his kid or is a bad father.

            Get of your soapbox.

    • ubermiguel

      Maybe MacT learned something from that Dubnyk commment. That “Schultz has Norris potential” comment comes to mind. I think it planted some ambition in Schultz’s head, he’s done well the last couple of games.

      The Professor seems like the kind of guy that will keep working and improving for years. Not saying he’ll ever be Hasek-level, but the Dominator was also known for being quite intelligent and translating that to the game as well.

      Love having both the Scrivenses as citizens of Edmonton.

      • A-Mc

        I’m of the belief that Schultz is doing better because he is playing less of a roll at even strength and as a result is getting less mins. That’s usually how it works out best for a specialist like him.

  • pkam

    I’m trying to control my emotions and not to be too negative, but, it’s still only two wins against 5 losses! Although, they did win it against two much better opponents, I’ll give them that, so congratulations is in order here!! Of course, to sustain that kind of intensity is hard, but a must to be able to be considered a ‘good team’, can they do that? Are they satisfy with a short term success? Will the coaches constantly reminding them the fomula for winning—- hard work & sacrifice? That is the question.

    • BillHK

      Exactly, and with that abysmal record Edmonton only finds themselves ahead of Colorado, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Carolina, and Buffalo, tying themselves with Arizona and St. louis.

      Point being, 7 games does not a season make. Lets wait a bit before announcing the end of all things. Or as you point out, herald the parade route.

      Still though, they have a good shot against Carolina and with the last change might even have a shot against Montreal and Nashville.

      If the Gordon line was good enough to go up against Ovi, Backstrom, and Green, then it shouldn’t have much trouble v Desairnes, Subban, ect. And though I like Montreal’s second line, that means they match up against the pipeline.

      As for Nashville, it will be interesting to see how they handle the Oilers speed.

  • ubermiguel

    Oilers Fans After First 3 Games: SCRIVENS!?! MORE LIKE SIVENS!!! HE’S TERRIBLE.

    Oilers Fans After Last 3 Games: Scrivens is like if Tim Thomas and Rolosson merged into one super goalie except better! Remember how he had a 59 save shutout last year?

    Oilers Fans on Sam Gagner: Terrible hockey player. He couldn’t even play on my men’s league team.

    Oilers Fans on Sam Gagner after 8pt Game: He’s finally breaking out! Watch out league, he will hit 100pts next year! He’s the real deal!

    Seriously… you people are nuts.

  • T.J.F.M.

    The oilers finally got a fwe bounces go their way, and a bit of luck on their side.

    They should not have won the game, but they didnt give up, and, in the end, they came out on top. That is the kind of game that they can really learn from and lean on. They didnt give up. They leaned on each other, trusted each other (im looking at you, Scrivens), and didnt give up. That is what a team is all about, and i was more impressed by that, then anything else.

    That makes me far more optimistic for the future, then winning two in a row. That they are finally developing as a team.

    But i still cant stand Schultz. No matter what he does this season, i just cant stand him. And i think im a little too fond of Marincin… but not in a creepy way or anything.

  • Hemmercules

    He seems like such a level headed guy. Doesn’t let losing get to him. I’m not going to lie, I was worried about going into the season with two goalies that have never seen a full NHL workload and I still won’t be sold until I see some good stretches from both of them. Hopefully the professor keeps it up, hard not to like the guy when you read those quotes and see him turn up his game after.

  • camdog

    Seeing him last year, I learned quickly that he is a battler. Like Roloson was a battler, or like how Jonathon Quick battles. He is a home town boy, and he is very proud, so playing for the Oilers, he holds himself accountable every night. I am thrilled we have him, and I firmly believe he is our guy.

  • Kevwan

    Scrivens has been very good the last 2 games. Based on what I’ve seen of him, this year and last, he seems very streaky.

    We need more consistency from him and significant contributions from Fasth. I think both can happen.

  • CMG30

    Two games and he stands on his head, needs to work on is puck handling and tracking players entering the zone. Hard work in practice with a goalie coach what it takes to adapt and tweak styles. Do the Oilers have one of those? That is the big question.