Hockey is a team sport. It’s a 23 man roster and no single
player is so good that they can single-handedly win you games. Ovechkin is one
of the league’s best goal scorers and his teams have never been particularly
dominant. Crosby scored 100 points as a rookie and his team wasn’t dominant
until they built more around him. Drew Doughty plays almost 30 minutes a night
and his team barely make the playoffs. There just isn’t one player who can make
that big of a difference to your team’s ability to win every night…except your goalie.
If you don’t have goaltending then you don’t have anything
in the NHL, and I think the Oilers of this year have proven that. Well below
league average goaltending is a pretty good way of finding yourself at the
bottom of the standings. Edmonton is ranked 30th in 5v5 save
percentage through ¾ of the season with a painful .9008 percentage.
Just a season ago they were still bad (26th) but
had a slightly more respectable .9134 5v5 save percentage. Unfortunately, since
the 2007-2008 season the Oilers have been in the top half of the even strength save
percentage exactly two times, and there doesn’t really appear to be a fix for
that visible on the horizon.
Here is how the team has fared by save percentage for the
past 8 years
2007-2008 .9106 (28th)
2008-2009 .9248 (6th)
2009-2010 .9113 (26th)
2010-2011 .9119 (28th)
2011-2012 .9214 (19th)
2012-2013 .9253 (14th)
2013-2014 .9134 (26th)
2014-2015 .9008 (30th)
In 5 of the last 8 seasons Edmonton’s goaltending has been
in the bottom five of the NHL. In 2008-2009 the Oilers finished six points out of
the Playoffs. There was some semblance of hope. In the lockout-shortened
2012-2013 season the Oilers finished 10 points out but you’ll recall at the
trade deadline they were in the playoff hunt, at one point even occupying a
playoff spot for a few hours.
Get even league average goaltending and you stand a chance.
Get bottom of the barrel goaltending and I don’t care how many first
overall pick forwards the team adds, they aren’t going anywhere.
It’s painful to see that in the Dubnyk years the Oilers were
trending up and he came completely unraveled when management questioned his
abilities publicly. The difference in the goaltending is certainly harming the
Oilers this season more than anything else, even more than their bare bones center depth and lack of high end defensemen.
The Oilers have allowed 1542 shots against them for 153
goals. With even the 15th placed save percentage this year
(Washington’s .9236 sv%) the Oilers would have only given up 118 goals at even strength. Thirty-five even strength goals over 64 games is a huge swing. The club still wouldn’t
be even in terms of goals allowed vs goals scored, but they probably wouldn’t
be where they are today in the standings.
Ben Scrivens has seen better days. I have no idea why coming
here has destroyed him. I’d like to think it’s systemic but he played on a
worse team last season and put up better numbers. He played for the Leafs who
also give up lots of scoring chances and he was better there too. When Dubnyk
left here he was still atrocious in Nashville and Montreal’s system and didn’t regain
his form until a new season began.
Goalies are weird.
Scrivens has never had numbers like this in his entire
professional career. It stands to reason he should bounce back and at least get
back to more normal numbers. His career save percentage is .910, for example.
At any rate, the Oilers are going nowhere until they start getting the stops.
Here is the playoff picture in both the East and the West (as
of the time of writing this piece) and their 5v5 save percentage relative to
Tampa Bay (24th)
NY Islanders (23rd)
NY Rangers (7th)
St Louis (11th)
These are the top 16 teams in the NHL and only five of them
have even strength save percentages outside of the top 16. One of those five is
Minnesota who actually have the third highest save percentage since January
14th, the day they traded for Devan Dubnyk.
It’s not as if getting the goaltending guarantees you
anything, as New Jersey has had stellar goaltending all season and is eight points
back of a wild card spot, but 75% of the teams currently in the playoffs have
been getting top 16 goaltending. It’s clearly important.
It’s especially important for an Oilers team that doesn’t
score at a particularly high rate like the Lightning or the Islanders (who
occupy spots one and two in league goal scoring). You should be able to outperform
weak goaltending if you’re shooting lights out, either at even strength or on special teams. Edmonton hasn’t done either so I keep coming back to the
For a team like Edmonton, I cannot help but think the
fastest way to boost the team’s respectability is by finding a solution in net.
They can add Darnell Nurse and Connor McDavid if possible, maybe even Johnny
Boychuk, but all three of them are going to be booking tee times early next spring
if MacT can’t find a stopper.