Scrivens or Fasth? Oilers keep goalie battle open

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The Edmonton Oilers dealt with a dizzying goaltending carousel last season, so one might understand if the organization decided to lean toward stability in 2014-15. It doesn’t sound like they’re eager to hand the top gig to one guy just yet, though.

With the Oilers’ season-opener rapidly approaching on Thursday, the Edmonton Journal reports that Ben Scrivens (pictured) and Viktor Fasth remain in the dark regarding who will get the nod.

It sounds like head coach Dallas Eakins wouldn’t be perturbed if that level of discomfort runs through this coming campaign.

“I hope we have a split and each plays 41 games,” Eakins said.

Stability vs. competition

Naturally, both goaltender said that they’d like to play against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, and in general. There aren’t many goalies who would refuse starts, aside from the occasional alleged Jaroslav Halak anomaly.

Here’s the thing: it’s not outrageous to wonder if a lack of security and an abundance of competition might actually benefit a goalie (or at least the team employing that netminder). More and more NHL teams seem to suffer with goalies whose long-term deals look ugly in hindsight (most obviously Rick DiPietro and Roberto Luongo, most recently with guys like Cam Ward). The most amusing single stat in favor of the spirit of competition comes from the 2013 Stanley Cup Final: all four goalies were in contract years in that series.

A glance at both goalies

Beyond those more abstract thoughts, the Oilers employ two goalies who could feasibly go in either direction, as each guy has limited resumes that feature flashes of brilliance.

Scrivens, 28, set a new career-high with 40 games played last season, putting up nice numbers in very different situations between his time with the Los Angeles Kings and 21 games with Edmonton (a 9-11-0 record but a solid .916 save percentage with the Oilers). Scrivens only has 72 games of NHL experience, but with a career .917 save percentage, it’s reasonable to hope for solid work. Also, AHL success only means so much, yet it’s obviously more promising to see a guy succeed at other levels, and Scrivens fits that bill.

Despite being 32, Fasth is actually the less NHL-proven of the two.

On the bright side, he was pretty dazzling in his debut campaign with the Anaheim Ducks, going 15-6-2 with four shutouts and a .921 save percentage in 2012-13. Last season was a nightmare, however, as injuries and the Ducks’ wealth of goalie options made for a tough season for the Swede. After five rough games with the Ducks, he was traded to Edmonton and looked pretty good (3-3-1, .914 save percentage) in limited work with Edmonton.

Still, Fasth only has 37 NHL games on his resume, as he surfaced on scouts’ radars with some strong international play in taking an unusual path to the big time.

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Ultimately, the Oilers may very well possess two starting-caliber goalies … or zero. Scrivens and Fasth have accomplished nice things in their limited opportunities, but the bottom line is that they’ve appeared in 102 regular season games combined.

Much like with Fasth’s former team in Anaheim, open competition may actually end being beneficial. Eakins might grow tired of asking these questions on a game-by-game basis, however.