Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Talbot: Lean on me

It goes without saying, or even looking at the numbers, that the Edmonton Oilers are a better team when they have Cam Talbot in the goal crease. Likewise, that any push they make for the playoffs in the 49 games that remain is going to hinge on having Talbot in the blue paint for as many of those games as possible.

In that regard, it might turn out to be something of a blessing that Talbot missed seven games while nursing an upper body injury before returning to backstop the Oilers to a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Saturday. It’s not that those seven games weren’t important in trying to find some post-season traction, but that built-in break could serve Talbot and the Oilers well from here on out.

Talbot, 11-10-1 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .905 save-percentage through 23 appearances, showed he can be a workhorse last season when he saw action in 73 games. From where I sit, the Oilers are going to need to lean on him like that the rest of the way to have any kind of post-season shot. Talbot’s done it before and he’s going to have to do it again.

Even if a rested Talbot was to play every game the rest of the way without being spelled off by back-up Laurent Brossoit – it’s possible but highly unlikely – he’d still come up one game short of the 73 he played last season. The question, then, is, what’s Talbot’s number in the 49 games that remain? Looking at the schedule, my best guess is he gets 44 of the remaining games.

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Nov 26, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Talbot was terrific against Minnesota, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced. He didn’t show any rust from the injury-imposed lay-off. What the Oilers need now is for Talbot to maintain the form that saw him post a .919 save-percentage last season. They need it fast and they need plenty of it. Brossoit had some good stretches with Talbot on the shelf, but there’s no argument the Oilers are a better team playing in front of their No. 1 stopper.

“I would like to clean up a few things like rebound control and some reads, but all in all, I felt pretty good for the first game in two and-a-half weeks,” Talbot said. “The guys kept the first few to the outside and let me get comfortable and let me battle from there . . . the reads, the timing. I didn’t always handle the puck (right). Maybe if you’re in a rhythm, you hang onto shots and not give up second chances but I was able to clean things up.”

Talbot hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of his last four starts, a stretch in which he’s allowed just eight goals on 109 shots – he’s been .935, .935, .920 and .909 in those four games. Of late, he’s been every bit as good as he was last season in fashioning that .919 the Oilers are going to need again the rest of the way.

The Oilers have five sets of back-to-back games remaining. They face Arizona and Las Vegas Jan. 12-13, Anaheim and San Jose Feb. 9-10, Arizona and Colorado Feb. 17-18, Calgary and San Jose March 13-14 and Florida and Tampa Bay March 17-18. If Brossoit spells Talbot off in each of those, that would put Talbot at 44 games the rest of the way.

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Nov 11, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) congratulate right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (98) after he scored a goal against the New York Rangers during first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

McLellan skated Jesse Puljujarvi with the second power-play unit today and it looks like, at long last, he will get his first PP time of the season when San Jose comes calling Monday. “He has steadily improved since he’s got here,” McLellan said. “He’s been able to take increments of his game up on a steady basis. We think he’s ready to go there and that he’s earned the opportunity.”

While Puljujarvi, 19, has been productive at even-strength since joining the Oilers, scoring 6-2-8 in the 16 games he’s played, McLellan said what has prompted him to make the move now is that the big Finn is better able to communicate on the ice.

“A lot of the penalty kills right now do such a good job up ice or through the neutral zone that you have to understand your role in that area and the variables that go into it sometimes on different breakouts,” McLellan said. “I think his English is improving and he has the ability to adjust on the fly. Verbally with quick changes, we find him in the right spot a lot more now than he was last year when he struggled with the language.

“A large part of it is that and once he’s in the zone, he’s got to understand where he’s got to go to alleviate pressure and to do things to be successful there but he’s improving immensely over time.”


  • GregJP

    I don’t really get this lack of English deal with Puljujarvi. He grew up in Finland, not some backwater remote part of the world. I’ve traveled quite a bit through Scandinavia and the vast majority of young people learn English in school and speak it quite fluently. So this guy, who knew he was going to play pro hockey in N. America didn’t take private English lessons???? Seems very strange to me.

  • Spydyr

    If Talbot does not play like last season the rest of the way. No playoffs for you.

    Puljujarvi on the powerplay? Welcome to weeks ago Oiler management. I think it won’t be long until he is on the first unit.

  • shaner

    Maybe it’s just me, but if your going to put him on the pp wouldn’t it make more sense to put him 1st unit and bump down letestu? By doing that both units get a fresh look and perspective and it gives JP the best chance to succeed.

    • Jonny vdv

      Letestu has been such a special teams workhorse though. I don’t know that it makes sense to bump him down. Maybe swap Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl, since this seems to be such a good year for the Nuge.

    • Letestu is clutch and is in a good spot on the PP, I’d have Pulju in the slot (with their 1-3-1 setup). That gives you TWO competent shooters as options for McDavid and two folks PKers need to respect.

      Make that first unit a bit more frightening. This PP setup has a few set plays with a few of which hinge on Letestu finishing. Swapping him out doesn’t make the unit scarier. PKers will look for that same play. But put JP in the slot and there are more dangerous plays for PKers to consider. Tie up PJ to prevent him as an option and #55 is wide open. Respect the play to Letestu and PJ has space to get a shot off.

      The problem with the PP was never about certain players finishing, but PKers reading it like an open book.

      • Slipknot 8

        McDavid sets up on the same half wall as RNH, having JP on the same side as McDavid makes zero sense even if he slides to the slot he’s a RH shot trying to score from the short side. PKer’s wont respect the shot or accuracy of that shot coming from a short side.
        The PP wont get better until they have a true threat from the point, teams are boxing the Oilers down low and letting our D-Hammer away with zero success. Sad but true.

        • When you’re in the slot like that the shot doesn’t have to be hard or accurate. The goal is to funnel it to the net. We saw great success with that same play under coach Nelson, with Lander getting a good number of clean up goals.

  • Fire Woodcroft!

    Don’t think LB has anything to hang his head about now that Talbot’s back. He might have let in a few softies during that seven-game stretch – but he also made some starter-goalie-level saves too. As long as you give him a handicap of a couple goals and the boys in front of him put some rubber in the other teams net, then I think you’re good with LB in net.

    Yeah – not a starter… but a reliable back-up for sure. Are there better back-ups out there? Probably – but I think our guy showed he can do it when necessary.

    That said, does it feel better to have Talbot back? Hells yeah.

  • ScottV

    Get him going on the second unit, but a better spot may be in place of Lucic.

    Lucic is great net front, but limited as an option to back out of there, every now and again to open up to McD and Drai from the right side for a shot or return cross seam pass – forehand to forehand. Lucic is left handed – so the only option is really to stand net front. Puljujarvi is big enough for net front and can back out with as a strong one timer option, just above the goal line on the low left side of the pp.

    The number one unit, may be struggling in part – due to the lack of flexibility / options – that Lucic can bring as a left hander.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “…McLellan said what has prompted him to make the move now is that the big Finn is better able to communicate on the ice.”

    It’s almost like coaches know things about the players that fans don’t, and that’s what they base their deployment decisions on, and that was the case with ‘Jarvi, almost.