It had been quite some time since Cam Talbot started a game for the Edmonton Oilers and even longer since he actually played a part in helping his team take home two points. Prior to last night’s tilt with the Boston Bruins, the former New York Rangers backup netminder had started exactly one of Edmonton’s last 12 games, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the Detroit Red Wings on November 27th.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 15, 2015
Over the last six weeks, he has essentially been nothing more than a bystander as Anders Nilsson has been the goalie of record in the Oilers recent climb up the Pacific Division standings. That all changed on Monday evening, as the 28-year old delivered an outstanding 47-save performance in backstopping his teammates to their sixth straight win with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory.
Talbot Stole Two Points In Beantown
And just like that, Talbot has erased what has been a rather forgettable opening act to his career in Orange and Blue. While his first five appearances in Oilers silks were rock solid, the next eight were not so good. After a pair of so-so starts from Nilsson in wins against the Rangers and San Jose Sharks, the opportunity was there for the taking and to his credit…the Caledonia native made the most of it.
For the first time in what seemed like ages, Henrik Lundqvist’s former understudy looked like the goalie Peter Chiarelli thought he was acquiring when he decided to part with a pair of draft picks at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in order to bring him into the Alberta capital. After showing glimpses of a solid positional game and the ability to control rebounds with ease over his first few starts, Talbot appeared incapable of delivering that level of play on a nightly basis.
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While yesterday’s showing against the Bruins could very well prove to be nothing more than a one-off, his positioning and rebound control were back to the same level he showed during his time in New York and in early October. Let’s not forget that prior to 2015-16, Talbot had never been anointed a team’s No. 1 goalie from the start of the season and it clearly got him. Add to that the fact he was no longer playing behind a defensively sound side like the Rangers and suddenly the road became rather bumpy.
This Is Now A Two Horse Race
Luckily for the Oilers, Nilsson found his KHL game and has been carrying this team along with Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl since beating the Philadelphia Flyers on November 1st, the same game in which they lost Connor McDavid to a broken collarbone. It is rather difficult to imagine where Edmonton would currently find itself without the 25-year old Swede on their roster but by no means do the last six weeks make him this coaching staff’s go-to-guy in between the pipes.
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On the contrary, his play has done something completely different. Don’t kid yourself, this was Talbot’s job to lose and while Nilsson has done yeoman’s work, it is still nowhere near enough to earn him the No. 1 spot from here on out. However, what it has done is create a competition for playing time and something tells me Todd McLellan could not be happier. With two unproven commodities, one can argue a healthy competition is what any head coach would want and that is exactly what the Edmonton Oilers now have on their hands.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.