After the first four games of the Edmonton Oilers season, fans across Oil Country were crying for first-year GM Craig MacTavish to make a deal and bring a new goalie to town. Devan Dubnyk was rode hard and put away wet when it came to the criticism that the 27-year old was taking and it’s difficult to say that it was unwarranted.
The numbers were atrocious. Through his first four starts and the team reeling with a record of 1-3-1, the Saskatchewan native had allowed 19 goals on 111 shots, good for a save percentage of just .829%. Backups in the NHL will go a lifetime with a better percentage than that.
Rumors began to swirl and vicious ones at that. Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres became a hot topic as did three other potential unrestricted free-agent netminders. Even Ilya Bryzgalov was mentioned as a potential replacement. That’s how desparate things got in Oil Country.
But a deal never happened and Dubnyk started to turn things around in goal, which begs the question; has Devan Dubnyk done enough lately to silence the critics, even if it is temporarily?
You can refer back to the game in New York against the Islanders. Despite taking another loss, Dubnyk was better, much better to the form of making 37 saves, the most in a game since February 4th of last season. You could say that these stats reflect last season’s performance and one that Oilers’ fans have been expecting from number 40.
Then the next game in Ottawa, Dubnyk simply flat out stole two points for his team. In hockey it is known that your goaltender may have to steal a game or two along the way when the rest of the lineup doesn’t show up. This was the case against the Senators as Oil Country watched Dubnyk make 35 saves on 36 shots en route to a thrilling 3-1 win.
Dubnyk followed up that performance with another good outing in Montreal, making 29 saves in what would be the Oilers second win in a row. Suddenly the old Dubnyk was re-appearing.
Last night against the Caps, despite surrendering 4 goals, two of which he can’t be blamed for and the other two that were just incredible shots, Dubnyk was again solid in goal. While he only made 22 saves on 26 shots, he kept his team in the game through forty minutes and again gave them a chance to win. If a couple of breaks had gone their way and Brayden Holtby not been outstanding, Dubnyk and the Oilers may have been celebrating their third straight win. But alas the hockey gods were against them on that night.
Back to Dubnyk. He was on pace to hold the opposing team to three goals or less for the fourth straight game before former Oiler Jason Chimera went roof daddy on him. When your goalie can keep the opposition to three goals or less, most of the time you’re going to have a chance to win.
But the bigger picture is that Dubnyk is making the big saves early on in the game when he needs to. He’s much more poised and confident now than he was at the start of the year. Some might blame the adjustment to the new goalie equipment standards, others might say he’s secured that first win and he’s not feeling the pressure the way he was earlier. In other words he can get back to playing goal and resembling the Dubnyk of year’s gone by.
Is that enough to help propel this team into the playoffs? That’s another argument for another day. For now it’s safe to say that Dubnyk has been great at times while simply good at others. Is that good enough though?
We want to know if you think Dubnyk has done enough to silence the critics that still want a change in goal? We ask you the readers to voice your opinion through our daily poll and let’s see where the results fall.