The Edmonton Oilers are only three points out of a playoff spot and time is running out for Steve Tambellini to make a move. However one move the team should make they don’t need to give anyone up, just a simple change in goaltending.
Start Nikolai Khabibulin over Devan Dubnyk.
On a team that has shown flashes with brilliance this season, Devan Dubnyk has been a weak link so far. Dubnyk has given up 65 goals this season, ranking 72nd out of 79 goaltenders, and has a so-so GAA of 2.72. One thing in Dubnyk’s favor is his age.
Dubnyk, like everyone else on this team, is young and will only get better, but when a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in quite some time is so close to the playoffs, you just simply can’t rely on Dubnyk at this point. Nikolai Khabibulin is the hot hand right now for the Oilers. Khabibulin just recorded a shutout Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues and has years of experience. Although Khabibulin has only played in seven games this season (six starts), his stats are better. Khabibulin is 3-3-1, blame that on the Edmonton offense, with a GAA of 1.93 and has played in clutch moments throughout his career. He won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 and looked good doing it.
Head coach Ralph Krueger responded last week on Khabibulin after returning from an injury,
We’re going to re-evaluate the lineup after every game and we’ll take a look at it. For us, we feel that Nikolai is now very close to 100%. We already had him in the lineup where he wasn’t quite there… and Nik, we’ll need him. If you look at the games that are left we have got 18 in 33 and we’re going to need everybody here.
Khabibulin was playing well before injuring his groin, but now that he’s back, it gives Krueger a viable option in net. Krueger’s comment pretty much said that Khabibulin will be used when needed and, to be quite honest, he should be the everyday goaltender in Edmonton.
Dubnyk only got the starter’s role in the last ten games of last season and has a shortened season this year. Dubnyk could still be a good goaltender, I truly believe this, but right now is not his time. If the Edmonton Oilers fall out of playoff contention, then its only logical for Krueger to put Dubnyk as his starter between the pipes and give him some more experience.
Its true that the Edmonton Oilers offense is one of the worst in the league, but if the team had solid goaltending, the paltry offensive output could be just enough in squeak into the playoffs. The next few games on the Oilers schedule are in their favor, with their next game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and then two more against their provincial rival Calgary, who could be without Jarome Iginla if he gets traded.
The Oilers have quite a few back-to-back games down the home stretch of this season, so, we’ll get to see both goalies. Perhaps Dubnyk can improve a little bit more down the stretch, but if I were Ralph Krueger right now, I’d go with the veteran Nikolai Khabibulin right now. Dubnyk will get his turn eventually.
Mark Wallace Graham has been a writer for TheHockeyWriters.com since March 2013. Growing up in New England, Boston Bruins hockey was in my blood. Follow me on Twitter, @MarkWGraham