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Photo Credit: © Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 55.0: In Need of a Save (7pm MST, SNW)

The Oilers have shown many different deficiencies in their play throughout the season. It has been frustrating and disappointing.

The harsh reality of the NHL in 2018 is that without consistent goaltending, you have no chance of winning.

Through 54 games, the Oilers goaltending hasn’t been good enough. Not close.

You won’t make the playoffs with a team sv% of .899. Cam Talbot has a .902sv%, which is 30th among 31 NHL starters, but with Cam Ward, .912sv% in 27 starts, taking over the starting job in Carolina for Scott Darling, .894sv% in 29 starts, Talbot is in line to have the worst sv% of any starter.

Talbot is better than this. He has proven it in the past, but he isn’t playing like he can. He needs to be better, and he needs to rediscover his confidence and his consistency in the final 20 or 21 starts he gets down the stretch.

He isn’t going anywhere in the off-season. The Oilers won’t be shopping for a starting goalie. They have one. He simply needs to play like he did in his first four NHL seasons.

Watching Talbot right now, it is obvious he is lacking confidence. He goes down too early, and stays down on his knees too long. The reason most goalies stay down to long is because they fear being caught in transition. It becomes a passive safe spot for goalies. He looks a bit passive behind screens.

He is making himself look smaller too often as well.

And he has allowed a goal on the first shot of the game, or of a period, too often. He isn’t the only one responsible, as we’ve seen many broken plays, but Talbot has not played close to the goalie we’ve seen in the previous four seasons.

I’ve heard some suggest the PK has killed his numbers, but keep in mind Al Montoya has the exact same EV save% as Talbot at .916%. Laurent Brossoit is at .911%. Talbot is a better goalie than Montoya and Brossoit, but at EV he hasn’t been much better this season.

In his first four seasons, 186 games, Talbot had a .927% at even strength. He needs to be better, and he needs to come up with the big, timely stop more than he has this season.

It isn’t easy to regain confidence right away. Some players do, but I’ve seen many goalies, defencemen and forwards have it carry over an entire season. Maybe Talbot doesn’t find the same level of play from his first four seasons until next year. It isn’t ideal, but it has happened to many players, even really good ones.

But Talbot has to keep battling. I’d like to see him work harder to see around screens, rather than just play the angle and hope the puck hits him.

He is better than he’s shown lately, and he and the Oilers must ensure he comes to training camp next year poised for a bounce-back season. It would help his confidence if he could finish the season better than he started, but much of that will fall on him.

LINEUP

Oilers

Maroon-McDavid-Strome
Lucic-Draisaitl-Cammalleri
Slepyshev-Khaira-Puljujarvi
Pakarinen-Letestu-Kassian

Klefbom-Russell
Nurse-Davidson
Auvitu-Benning

Talbot

There are some new line combos and new D pairs, but regardless of who plays where, they have to show up ready to play. The team has lost three in a row and played catch up in all three games. Caggiula skated at practice this morning in a full face shield, but is unlikely to play. Andrej Sekera wasn’t on the ice and is likely out for a few more games.

Panthers

Dadonov-Barkov-Bjugstad
Huberdeau-Trocheck-Malgin
McGinn-McCann-Mamin
Haley-McKenzie-Sceviour

Ekblad-Yandle
Matheson-Pysyk
McCoshen-Petrovic

Reimer

Two years ago the Panthers looked like a team poised to become a consistently competitive team. Then they changed management, head coach and their defence. They haven’t been good since. The Edmonton Oilers should study what Panthers did wrong, and while Florida doesn’t have McDavid, they have many decent young players, but they aren’t getting any traction. The Oilers can’t make the same mistakes moving forward. They have to hope this year was just an off-year, not 2017 being the off-year.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Litter Box Cats:

Not long ago, the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers were the trendy picks to take that next step as an elite club. That’s clearly not happening this season.

Edmonton (23-27-4) returns to Rogers Place after losing all three games on its California road trip and before going on another three-game swing. The club erased a 3-0 deficit with four straight goals but lost 6-4 to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

”We have a lot to work on as a team. Special teams, defensive, offensive. We have to work on our whole game,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said.

With 28 games to play in the regular season, it may be too late. The Oilers came within a game of the conference final last season, but have already surpassed their loss total from 2016-17 and are 13th in the West — 16 points out of the final playoff spot.

TONIGHT

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers are 8-2 in the last ten games against the Panthers. They win at home 5-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up two points after going pointless versus San Jose.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Panthers score on their first shot of the game. Nah, I’m kidding, that wouldn’t happen again. Lucic ends his 18-game goal drought. His longest goalless streak was 20 games when he was a rookie in 2008. He also went 18 games without a goal that season. He has had other long streaks without a goal in his career. Fifteen games in 2009 and 2013. Twelve games in 2011 and three times he had a 10-game drought in 2016. Last year he went 12 without a goal, then scored, and then went ten more. So only one goal in 23 games. He has been streaky in his career, but he ends this drought at 18 games.

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Source:  Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 02/12/2018 – 12:30pm MST