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Mirtle: Could Ben Scrivens be the answer in Edmonton?

Edmonton Oilers Ryan Smyth (94), Philip Larsen (36) and goalie Ben Scrivens (30) celebrate the win over the San Jose Sharks during NHL hockey action in Edmonton, Alta., on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

His former teammates were all well aware of the feat and spent Thursday morning flooding Ben Scrivens's phone with messages of congratulations.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk even helped propagate a new nickname for the Edmonton Oilers netminder, dubbing him "Scri-Vezina" after an NHL record setting 59-save shutout the night before.

"He was hot," van Riemsdyk said as a big smile spread across his face. "Rubber poisoning. I think it was 59 saves – that's pretty impressive. I actually sent him a text this morning. He's probably sore from that one. You're always happy to see good teammates and good people do well, and he was a great guy and a great teammate."

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"I taught him everything he knows," Leafs netminder and close friend James Reimer joked.

Scrivens has been a remarkable story all season, first in excelling for the Los Angeles Kings when starter Jonathan Quick went down and now in a few appearances with the Oilers since being traded there two weeks ago.

He leads the NHL in save percentage at an eye-opening .937 after 19 starts, including .955 in his four games in Edmonton, a team that has been desperate for good goaltending all season.

"I'm so happy for Ben and proud of him," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said after the game, a 3-0 win where the San Jose Sharks dominated the play. "You preach all the time that you need your whole team to win the game, and I'm rethinking it. It looked like we needed to score a goal, and Ben won it on his own. Incredible thing to watch. I've never seen it before – and hopefully I don't have to see it again."

For whatever reason, Scrivens has never been regarded as a Grade A prospect by NHL teams. Both the Leafs and Kings believed he topped out as only a backup, which helps explain why he was dealt away twice in the last seven months.

Some of it likely comes back to pedigree. He never played major junior, narrowly made Cornell in college, was undrafted by the NHL and started his pro career at age 24 in the ECHL, where he quickly proved too good for that league and was quickly promoted to the Toronto Marlies.

Scrivens then posted a .923 save percentage in three AHL seasons, which included an outstanding run in leading Toronto to the Calder Cup finals in 2012 with a .935 save percentage.

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And, after only 55 NHL games, he has a .921 save percentage, which is tied with Jonathan Bernier for the sixth best mark leaguewide in the last three seasons.

His style may not be textbook, but Scrivens could be one of those goalies where appearances are deceiving. It's difficult to argue, statistically, that he simply keeps stopping the puck.

It'll obviously still take a much bigger sample size at the NHL level to see whether he settles in as a starter or a backup, but thus far he's continually kept proving people wrong.

An unrestricted free agent this summer, Scrivens and the Oilers haven't yet begun serious contract talks, but it's expected he will be one of their two netminders next season.

Something in the neighbourhood of a two-year deal for a modest salary would seem to make sense and could prove a real bargain for Edmonton should he continue to play as well as he has this season.

"I've seen that kid stop a lot of pucks," said Eakins, who coached him with the Marlies. "I've watched him develop… With Ben coming in and being new here, that performance, obviously, gives our players for a real good feel for what kind of guy he is. He's in that net stopping pucks and every timeout he was coming back to the bench encouraging guys, giving reminders, everything. He was not only stopping the pucks; he was great with his teammates along the way."

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"He's just grown as a goaltender," Reimer said. "You move up and you move up and you just get better as time goes on. I think he's proven himself over and over again."

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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