“Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?” Any married man who’s been lobbed that grenade by his better half understands there are times when honesty takes a backseat to diplomacy — otherwise known as the white lie, the fib – lest one risk frostbite between the marital sheets for weeks on end.
Likewise, the ugly truth was not an option for coach Dallas Eakins after the Edmonton Oilers lost 4-3 to the Ottawa Senators in overtime Thursday. Ryan Rishaug of TSN asked Eakins if he had any concerns about his goaltending after another sub-par performance by one of his stoppers, this time by Ben Scrivens, who couldn’t get a handle on a Mike Hoffman shot that had no business finding the back of the net.
“I’m not concerned,” Eakins said, choosing not to toss Scrivens or Viktor Fasth under the proverbial bus at a time when telling it like it obviously is would’ve shown up his puck-fumbling tandem when no better options exist. “Has our goaltending been up to speed? No, but neither has our team game.”
Given what our eyeballs and the statistics tell us about the state of the goal crease 17 games into the season, Eakins is either profoundly dim, which he isn’t, or is covering ass – “Of course not, dear. You look terrific” – when he says he isn’t concerned about his goaltending.
It has been, by any measure, butt-ugly.
YES, YOU LOOK FAT
I was one of those people who thought starting the season with Scrivens and Fasth provided enough of an upgrade over the 2013-14 duo of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera that the Oilers should be OK in goal. Not set by any means, because neither came in as a proven No. 1 goaltender, but OK. So far, not even close.
Scrivens is 4-6-1 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a save percentage of .897 in 13 appearances. Fasth is 2-3-1 with a 3.63 GAA and a .885 saves percentage. The team GAA is 3.33, which ranks 27th in the league. The team save percentage is .888, 28th in the league. The Oilers have allowed 58 goals. Only Colorado and Buffalo have allowed more.
Those don’t fall entirely on Scrivens and Fasth of course, because there’s been no shortage of defensive breakdowns, bad coverage and turnovers. The truth is, though, much of it does. Scrivens should have been able to squeeze Hoffman’s shot in overtime. How many times have Scrivens and Fasth been guilty of giving up a bad goal or, in the case of Scrivens, mishandling a puck that led directly to a goal?
Teams with a save percentage under .910 need a lot of other things to go right to wins games. Teams with a save percentage under .900 are almost always bottom feeders. Scrivens has been under .900 in six of the 13 games he’s played in. Fasth has been under .900 in three of six appearances.
Again, Scrivens and Fasth aren’t the only problem, but in a season in which the Oilers have tightened up their shots-for and shots-against numbers (SF:508 SA:511) compared to 2013-14, you can bet the farm Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish are damn sure concerned about their masked men.
WHAT TO DO?
TSN’s Darren Dreger, one of the most connected guys in the business, suggested yesterday that it likely won’t be long until MacTavish is working the phones looking for options in the crease in tandem with his search for another centre. That might mean, reading between the lines, he already is.
I don’t see free agents like Martin Brodeur or Tomas Vokoun as an option, not that either of them would come even if MacTavish begged on bended knee with a suitcase full of money. I can’t see re-visiting Ilya Bryzgalov, who was brought in last season when Dubnyk and LaBarbera swallowed their tongues out of the gate.
What I do see is an Oiler team that’ll be out of any semblance of contention before the quarter-pole of the season yet again if the goaltending doesn’t get markedly better one way or another by the end of this month. Not buried to the point they were a year ago after a 4-15-2 start, but out of it nonetheless.
If there’s a concern . . .
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.