The Post-Game Probe (G46)
January 20, 2016
Three words. Anders. Nilsson. Facepalm.
Boy, was that ugly.
You know when you invite that friend of yours to pick-up and insist to everyone that he really is good, they just have to give him a chance?
And then he completely craps the bed, time after time?
And everyone looks at you with that same half-amazed, half-disgusted Harvey Dent of a face?
What’s worse is when that one guy whips out his camera, takes a video, and shares it around so that everyone can get a good laugh.
Yeah… I’m beginning to feel that way about Anders the Giant.
Part of me looks at last night’s game and thinks, “This is the way the season ends, folks. This is the way the season ends. This is the way the season ends – not with a bang, but a whimper.”
But then another part of me goes, “Whoa, whoa, whoa there. Let’s step back from the ledge and relax.”
An old man once gave great advice, and I think it fitting to quote it here.
“Always remember, Bilbo, when your heart wants lifting… think of pleasant things.”
~ Donald J. Trump
I’ve always wondered what he meant by that, but after last night, I think I know.
Cam Talbot came alive on Dec. 14, 2015. The opponent was the Boston Bruins; the game, a tire fire of nuclear proportions. The winner? The Edmonton Oilers, on the back of a 47 save performance by our man Cam. This game marked the first +.900% posted by Talbot after a shaky six game slump.
That was 13 starts ago. From that game on, Talbot rattled off a truly impressive streak of performances (beginning with the BOS game):
- BOS (47/49, .959)
- CHI (33/37, .892)
- WPG (44/45, .978)
- VAN (22/24, .917)
- LAK (11/14, .786)
- ANA (34/35, .971)
- ARI (31/34, .912)
- CAR (29/29, 1.000)
- TBL (23/26, .885)
- FLA (12/14, .857)
- SJS (36/37, .973)
- CGY (31/32, .969)
- FLA (31/33, .939)
That’s a total of 384 saves on 409 shots, or a SV% of .939.
Soak in the luxury of that number, Oilers fans. SV% .939.
There are a couple of very encouraging points to be made about this stretch of success.
- Over 13 games, this level of performance is exceptional (understatement, I know).
- There are a couple of bounce-back performances in there; for me, this fact increases the likelihood Talbot’s success being sustainable. It hasn’t all been rosy posy, easy peezy for Talbot, but he’s capable of getting back on the horse and thriving again after a fall. This has not been the case for Nilsson, who excelled early in the year, hit a rough patch, and has yet to recover (see last night).
- Strong basis for an argument that Talbot is already a bona fide NHL starter. He seemed to struggle with the mindset required of a #1 when he was given the bulk of the workload earlier in the year; he appears to have corrected that deficiency.
- This is some of the most consistent goaltending the Oilers have received in a long time. I’m reminded of the Dubnyk era (pre-collapse, of course).
- This is more along the lines of what fans of the Oil thought they were acquiring when Chiarelli made that deal with then-Rangers GM, Glen Sather. I direct you especially to Darcy McLeod’s work in this regard (great read, smart guy). Summary? Darcy concludes that Talbot, as a back-up with NYR, was already statistically in the ranks of the truly elite in the NHL and showed every sign of being able to continue that success as a starter.
- The contract extension Talbot signed on the 17th looks good from here and may very well pay off in spades throughout all three years of its duration.
To be fair to Nilsson, he is likely to figure himself out and pull out of this slump. He has many of the tools needed for an NHL starter: size, athleticism, intensity, work ethic, etc. But the performance we saw last night was exceptionally poor, and one wonders about his frame of mind following the Talbot extension.
Barring a Talbot slump or injury, it’s unlikely Nilsson will get very many starts throughout the remainder of the season. Hopefully he can take solace in the success of his teammate, recognizing that Talbot has done what he must now try to do: excel as a backup and prove to another NHL team that he has what it takes to be a starter.
The take-away for all of the above? Well, mine is this: I had my doubts about Talbot to start the season but I am a doubter no more. This streak he’s on is special, and if it turns out not to be a streak but to be something more sustainable? Music. The pure, unadulterated strains that only a true, #1 goalie can produce.
Been awhile since we’ve enjoyed that in Edmonton.