MacKinnon: ‘Hopefully, I don’t have to see that again’: Eakins
Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins says brilliant performance by goalie Ben Scrivens in shutout win over San Jose Sharks underscores lousy play by teammates
BOSTON — When the 59-shot pummelling by the San Jose Sharks was over, his team stunningly improbable 3-0 winners by virtue of a record-setting goaltending effort, Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins waited at the players’ bench to shake Ben Scrivens’ hand.
What did your coach say? the Oilers instant goaltending star was asked.
“He just said ‘great game,’” Scrivens said. “Nothing special.”
It was a brief, unconflicted moment for Eakins on a night Scrivens set an Oilers franchise single-game saves record, not to mention an NHL saves record for a shutout in a 60-minute game.
Never mind all that. The inner turmoil surfaced for the head coach as soon as Eakins spoke to reporters following the game.
“You preach all the time that you need your whole team to win the game, and tonight, I’m rethinking it,” Eakins said. “It looked like we needed to score a goal and Ben won it on his own.”
It was a gobsmacking performance — 20 saves in the first period alone; 42 after 40 minutes. But, believe this, Eakins was temperamentally unable to stand back and simply marvel at Scrivens’ athletic brilliance.
“That’s how I thought our skaters were playing the game — they were watching Ben,” Eakins said. “I’m so happy and proud of him, and then you’re mad at the same time.
“(It was an) incredible thing to watch. I’ve never seen it before and, boy, hopefully I don’t have to see that again.”
The Oilers, remember, had just won their third straight game, no small thing in a grim, 18-win season. But the commitment to short, crisp passes, and to efficient breakouts that informed their play against Nashville (5-1 win) and Vancouver (4-2 win) was nowhere to be found.
“It always goes back to the way you exit the zone,” Eakins said. “We could not exit that zone for the life of us.
“They were on us, or we would take an extra second with the puck.”
If Scrivens’ otherworldly play was a rarity for any Oilers goaltender in recent memory, the passive play of the ensemble cast was horrifyingly familiar to Oilers fans and to Eakins.
It subjected them to the kind of dominant performance ‘heavy’ teams like Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis and, yes, Saturday’s opponent, the Boston Bruins, are capable of unleashing on them. For one night, the answer was a white-hot goalie.
“Hey, Listen, he was on, obviously,” Eakins said. “I’ve seen that kid stop a lot of pucks.
“I’ve watched him develop, from being in the East Coast League, and up and down with our team with the Marlies and him turning into an NHL goalie.
“So, I’ve got a history with him and I’m very, very proud of his development and where he is today.
“But we were overwhelmed in the game. I thought San Jose was just firing on all cylinders. Right from our back end to our forwards, we just couldn’t shake it.
“We were firmly standing around watching. We were playing a very cautious, cautious game, which you can’t do in this league, you can’t do it.”
You can when your goaltender is playing lights out, as Scrivens was in surpassing the Oilers previous single-game franchise saves record of 56, set by Bill Ranford in a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers in 1993.
Scrivens was 21 stops shy of the 80-save (83 shots) performance Sam LoPresti fashioned for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Boston Bruins in May 1941 against the Boston Bruins.
This was not the 70-save (73 shots) spectacular that Quebec Nordiques goalie Ron Tugnutt produced in a 3-3 tie against Boston on March 21, 1991.
There were no value-added playoff and medical elements to the drama, as there were for Montreal Canadiens goaltending legend Patrick Roy during a first-round Stanley Cup series against Boston in 1994. Stricken with appendicitis, Roy convinced team physicians to treat him with antibiotics to temporarily quiet his raging appendix, then made 99 saves over two games, both victories, including a 60-save overtime masterpiece in Game 5 of that series.
Still, Scrivens’ performance instantly joins the conversation of all-time great goalie performances, even if he wasn’t about to make much of a fuss about his own play.
Scrivens, who said he “hates superstitions,” didn’t indulge in any cheap sentimentality about surpassing himself (his previous game-high for saves was 40), or about fashioning a gem in front of friends and family. Not to mention Oilers brass, for whom he is auditioning for a full-time job and a multi-year contract.
It was a magical night, but the Professor, as Scrivens is known, isn’t much for pixie dust.
“Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet, but I always try and downplay stuff like that,” Scrivens said. “It’s a great narrative, and it’s great for the fans and newspapers.
“I’ll definitely appreciate it probably tonight, talking to my parents and my family. I’m sure there were a couple of friends in the stands tonight, and people watching on TV.
“I think my Dad and my sister were here. My Mom, took the option tonight, so she might be a little mad.
“Hopefully, I have another good one at some point.”
Hopefully not, is what Eakins was emphatically thinking, and saying.
Such is the state of the 2013-14 Oilers. On a night when a hometown boy demonstrates he may be the answer to their long-standing goaltending concerns, his brilliance also underscores how much work remains to be done with this work-in-progress team.
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