SANTA CRUZ, January 31, 2014 — Watching Ben Scrivens’ 59 save performance from Wednesday night, one might get the impression he was making it look easy. The San Jose Sharks, a team not lacking in offensive skill, fired puck after puck at the 27-year-old goaltender, setting a new record for the post-expansion era NHL. Shutouts are elusive for goalies, even on the best teams. Scrivens’ Edmonton Oilers teammates did their best to help him out, but their defensive shortcomings, particularly in their own end of the ice, made his victory even sweeter.
Scrivens, an undrafted Spruce Grove, Alberta native, came out of the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League) and played four years at Cornell, perhaps not coincidentally, also the alma mater of hall of fame goalie Ken Dryden. Scrivens bounced around pro hockey, from the ECHL to the AHL, eventually ending up in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, where he made his NHL debut in 2011-2012. Scrivens was moved to the Los Angeles Kings last season and looked to have the backup spot locked up once the Kings moved Jonathan Bernier, only to have rookie Martin Jones arrive on the scene and take it from him.
Edmonton has finished out of playoff contention for the past seven seasons. Predictably, these finishes have seen them collecting high draft picks. The Oilers, inexplicably, have used all these picks on forwards, collecting an array of young snipers, while failing to address their glaring needs at defense and goaltending.
The Oilers had been counting on Devan Dubnyk, a six foot sieve, as their starter, and had recently signed the enigmatic Ilya Bryzgalov as well. For all the promising skill up front, the Oilers have been unable to keep the puck out of their net for years. While it is unrealistic to expect a shutout from Scrivens every night, especially with how many chances the Oilers give up, his steady play could go a long way toward stabilizing Edmonton’s fragile identity.
Scrivens has seen just about everything the hockey world has to offer. As an undrafted free agent, he knows patience and how to put in the necessary work to be a pro. Scrivens’ presence on a youthful squad could be just what the Oilers need as they continue to rebuild a once great franchise.
As he calmly turned aside everything the Sharks threw at him Wednesday night, the rest of the Oilers bench came visibly alive and pressed harder when they were on the ice. If he can handle the workload, and the ridiculous amount of shots he will surely face, he will keep Edmonton in games they would have been run out of with Dubnyk or Bryzgalov in net.
Head coach Dallas Eakins has his hands full with a talented but inexperienced team. He now knows he can count on Scrivens to give his highly skilled prospects a chance to make mistakes without costing them games.
Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.