Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Since owning the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft for three consecutive years from 2010-12 hasn't exactly put Edmonton on the fast track to success, maybe all the Oilers' rebuilding project needs is a little bit of luck.
The club hopes to have found that good fortune in the acquisition of goaltender Ben Scrivens. The 27-year-old Scrivens came to Edmonton from Los Angeles earlier this month for the cost of only a third-round draft pick, and in just his fourth start with the Oilers, he managed to grab the NHL spotlight with a record-setting performance.
Scrivens set a league mark in Wednesday's 3-0 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks by stopping 59 shots in the shutout victory. It was the most saves ever in a shutout -- topping the previous single-game high of 54 saves in a shutout, set by Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith on April 4, 2012.
Granted, it was only one game, but it was the type of performance that could get an unheralded guy like Scrivens on the right track. More importantly, it could lead the talented but inexperienced Oilers to finally put their faith in a goaltender. Considering that Scrivens is one of five goaltenders to man the crease in Edmonton this season, it's about time somebody stuck as a dependable backstop.
The Oilers are known as an offense-first team and with good reason. The club selected forwards Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, respectively, with their recent string of three straight No. 1 selections. Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and fellow forward Jordan Eberle, a first-round pick (22nd overall) in 2008, all appear to be offensive stars in the making, while Yakupov, who is only 20 years old, is still trying to find his groove as an NHLer.
While Justin Schultz, 23, is a blossoming talent on the blue line, but there isn't much else to like at the back end. Edmonton did finally opt to take a non-forward in last year's draft by selecting defenseman Darnell Nurse with the seventh pick, but the 18-year-old nephew of former NFL star Donovan McNabb is still playing in juniors and could be a few years away from making an impact at the NHL level.
Currently, Edmonton ranks 18th in the league with a respectable average of 2.59 goals per game. The defense, however, has been anything but respectable as the Oilers are allowing a league-worst 3.36 goals per game.
With little defensive depth, the Oilers have been waiting for a goaltender to step up and be the rising tide that lifts all boats. After Wednesday's amazing effort from Scrivens, it's tempting to think the newest Edmonton goalie could be the guy to elevate the rebuilding club to a higher level. Considering the club hasn't made the playoffs since going on a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, the next step is qualifying for the postseason, a humble goal to say the least.
The Oilers began the season with Devan Dubnyk as their No. 1 netminder, but he had an awful campaign in Edmonton and was traded to Nashville on Jan. 15, the same day Scrivens was acquired from the Kings.
It's also been fairly obvious that Ilya Bryzgalov isn't the answer to Edmonton's goaltending issues. While Bryz has managed to keep his foot out of his mouth during his tenure with the Oilers, the quirky netminder is just 4-8-3 with a 3.22 goals against average and .903 save percentage in his first NHL job since being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers over the summer.
Jason LaBarbera and Richard Bachman also have seen action between the pipes for the Oilers in 2013-14, but neither of those guys seem to offer a long- term solution to Edmonton's net problems.
Enter Scrivens, an undrafted free agent who broke into the league with Toronto before being dealt to the Kings in the trade that landed the Maple Leafs another goaltender in Jonathan Bernier. Scrivens turned some heads earlier this season with his solid play while Jonathan Quick was hurt, but once the Kings' No. 1 goaltender came back earlier this month, he became expendable.
Unlike playing goal for the defensively stout Kings, a netminder in Edmonton should be ready to face a lot of rubber and that aspect of his new job didn't seem to bother Scrivens in his record-setting performance on Wednesday. He stopped 20 shots in the first period, another 22 in the second and finished off his terrific outing with a 17-save third.
Scrivens' teammates were left amazed at his effort against the Sharks, and that one game could go a long way toward making Edmonton's skaters believe they've finally found a savior in net.
"I don't think I've even seen anything like that on TV," Hall said. "That was amazing. It's not like they were 59 shots from the wall, it was 'grade A' chances. They were chances that we don't want to give up at all, but he was making saves and it was fun to watch."
Even Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was effusive in his praise for Scrivens and how the Oilers seemed to feed off his historic effort.
"They begin to think the goaltender's invincible and he was," McLellan said. "He was Superman tonight. He had the uniform on and anything that we shot at him, he stopped. As the night went on, they blocked more shots, they felt they were closer to the victory every time the minutes ticked off and you have to give them credit for sticking with their plan as well."
Through four games in an Oilers uniform, Scrivens is 2-2-0 with a 1.76 GAA and .955 save percentage. Sure, it's a small sample size, but he also was 7-5-4 with a 1.97 GAA, .931 save percentage and three shutouts this season with L.A., so maybe the Alberta native is ready to come into his own.
It's not crazy to think Scrivens is a diamond in the rough. Goalies typically take longer to develop than skaters, which is why so few teams use early round draft picks on netminders.
Other teams in recent years have found No. 1 goaltenders who nobody seemed to want at the time. Guys like Smith in Phoenix, Craig Anderson in Ottawa, Sergei Bobrovsky with Columbus or Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop.
It's too early to include Scrivens in that group based off one spectacular performance, but it is possible we could look back at Wednesday's effort as a turning point in not only his career, but also in Edmonton's long road back to respectability.