After dropping their home opener to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, the Edmonton Oilers have essentially mirrored their start from 2014-15. While last year’s 0-3-1 record isn’t much different from this October’s 0-4 mark, there has been one major difference…the play of their netminders.
Talbot MIGHT be pretty good
— Matt Henderson (@Archaeologuy) October 16, 2015
Despite finding themselves on the wrong side of the final score on two separate occasions to the aforementioned Blues and losses to the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, the duo of Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson have held up their end of the bargain to start the 2015-16 NHL campaign.
Unlike last year’s tandem of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, who struggled mightily out of the gate, these two have given their team a chance to win on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, the combination of opponent and the fact Edmonton is currently nowhere near good enough to eke out wins in a tight game has left them with nothing to show from the first week of their season.
Other than allowing the Stars to fire 51 shots at Nilsson in his debut, the Oilers have started to cut down on the number of mistakes in their own end of the rink but they are far perfect. Their lack of communication and urgency remain major concerns, but this is still a work in progress. However, good goaltending can mask a lot of problems and allow teams to work through their shortcomings.
A Potential Two-Headed Monster
As good as Nilsson played in Dallas, he did cough up a pair of ill-timed softies and, in essence, cost his team at least one point in the standings. With that said, blaming a guy for a loss when the majority of his teammates didn’t even bother to show up, does seem a little harsh. Again, the former New York Islanders third rounder kept his team in it and at this stage of the game that is all anyone can ask for.
[Related Article: Anders Nilsson And Seizing An Opportunity]
Last season that game would have turned into a drubbing. Whereas this year it was 4-2 loss that included an empty-netter and could have easily turned into a 3-2 win, had Nail Yakupov scored on a breakaway with five minutes to play. The confidence which is gained from playing in front of a goalie that you truly believe can stop the puck, cannot be understated. It allows everyone on the ice to relax and not be afraid to make a mistake because it will end up in your net.
That was certainly the case throughout the previous two seasons and the addition of Talbot has helped bring that to an end. While it is still early, the 28-year old had posted a .929 SV% and allowed just four goals against heading into last night. Now both those numbers took a bit of a hit after falling 4-2 to St. Louis but Talbot has been rock solid in all three of his starts.
Talbot Is Unquestionably An Upgrade
After watching Scrivens continually struggle with his positioning and rebound control during his time in Edmonton, the former New York Rangers backup has been a breath of fresh air. From day one, his rebound control has been impeccable and while it may be a small sample size, he has rarely if ever been caught out of position.
Add to that the fact he had not allowed a bad goal against until Alex Steen’s insurance marker late in the third of yesterday’s 4-2 loss and the Oilers basically have the polar opposite of what they had in goal last season. Again, it hasn’t paid off in the standings to this point but once this team starts scoring some goals and gets their power play on track…that will all change.
[Related Article: Oilers Take Calculated Risk In Acquiring Cam Talbot]
In spite of what some fans may have hoped, fixing what is wrong with the Edmonton Oilers was never going to be a quick fix. Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan knew that going in and both were banking on their goaltending being good enough to help with that transition. While we won’t have an answer to that question until next April, it appears as though they made the right call.
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.