Garon takes the reigns
|Edmonton Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon makes a save on New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr, from the Czech Republic, during second period NHL action in Edmonton, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jimmy Jeong)|
For the fourth consecutive game, Mathieu Garon gets the nod between the pipes tonight for the Edmonton Oilers as they look to win their third game in four tries. It will be the first time this season that Garon has played four straight games and clearly if he keeps playing well he has a chance to take over the spot of number one goaltender with the team.
“I think right now I’ve got a good chance to do it but at the same time I don’t want to think about it. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been playing like this and I don’t want to start thinking about being number one, just play the same way,” said Garon following the morning skate.
“Right now it’s a good opportunity for me. Maybe in the past I was thinking too much about making the playoffs from the first game of the year. If you think about that, it’s not going to work. I’m just thinking about the game tonight and we’ll see about that.”
Although he hasn’t had four consecutive starts until tonight, he has been playing more as of late – and playing well. Since December 2, Garon has had the decision in 12 of 17 games although Roloson did come down with strep throat several weeks ago which limited his starts.
“We’re not scoring many goals and not giving up too many. I think this is the only way we’re going to win. If we keep playing good defensively we have a good chance of winning.”
The Oilers are a confident team in close games, largely because of their success in the shootout. In 13 shootout games, they have won 11 times. Garon has been in goal for seven of those wins and has yet to lose this season in the showdown.
“If it goes to a shootout we know we can score goals. As a goalie you just think about that and make one save at a time,” said Garon.
Garon has stopped a remarkable 21 of 23 shots in the shootout. His ability to stop the puck has allowed such shooters as Sam Gagner to try different things.
“Matty gives you a lot of confidence going in, knowing he’s going to stop it most of the time,” Gagner remarked. “It take some pressure off you. You can just focus on what you have to do and you don’t have to worry about his end too much. It makes it pretty easy and a lot more fun and loose when you’re going in.”
Last game, Garon stopped all three Rangers in the shootout. Head coach Craig MacTavish didn’t think twice about naming him the starter for the fourth game in a row.
“We’re at the stage right now where you’ve got to go with the guy that’s hot. This stage of our season right now, given the situation we’re in, we quite obviously have to stay with him,” said MacTavish.
Of course, for Garon to play that means more downtime for Roloson.
“I’ve got a lot of loyalty towards Roli and what he meant to this team for the period of time he’s been here,” said MacTavish. “He made us a better team throughout that period.”
The head coach said he wasn’t concerned about Roloson’s ability to work through this stretch and ultimately peform in net next time he’s called upon.
“The thing about him is he’s got a considerable amount of mental toughness. He’s been in this situation before in Minnesota so he has that experience to draw on. The nice thing about this whole situation is I know when Roli goes back in he’s going to be real solid.
“It’s a different situation for Roli because he’s always been the defacto guy but the other guy’s playing really well and we’ve got to go with the hot hand right now.”
Garon noted that there was no tension between himself and Roloson despite the recent goaltending situation.
“We’ve never really talked about it and I think it’s better that way. We both come to the rink prepared and never know who’s going to play the next day. We have the same goal to be in the playoffs and he’s been a great guy,” Garon stated.
“He’s practicing really hard and for me and all the players it’s good to see that.”
Roloson knows there’s nothing he can do about it and his been a professional in every way while dealing with the situation.
“You just gotta go out and practice and be ready when you get that opportunity to play,” he said. “It’s part of being a professional, you’ve got to do whatever you can to help the team win.
“You can’t do anything that would disrupt the situation here.”
SKATE PROBLEMS FOR SMID
The worst fear of any hockey player happened to Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid on Saturday night about eight minutes into the first period of the game against the New York Rangers. The blade of his skate essentially fell off, leaving him with little to no traction on the ice.
“My skate fell apart. I lost the blade,” said Smid.
However, the blueliner was saved by the bell – or whistle, that is. As a result, he was able to drag his way to the bench.
“I was really happy the ref blew the whistle. I was stuck on the ice and couldn’t push with my right skate,” Smid commented.
He headed to the dressing room where Oilers equipment manager Barrie Stafford re-attached the blade in no time at all. He ended up only missing one shift.
“It was a 30 second job for Staffy so it wasn’t a really big deal.”