EDMONTON – In a season where consistency has been elusive for his team, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jeff Deslauriers is hoping he’s finally found his groove.
After making 28 saves in a 2-1 win over Minnesota on Friday, Deslauriers was at his best Sunday night, stopping 22 shots to shut out the New Jersey Devils 2-0 and upstage boyhood idol Martin Brodeur.
“Just playing against somebody you watched growing up is amazing,” said Deslauriers. “In my opinion, he’s the best goalie in the league.
“For me, he’s got the toughest mind, the mental toughness. To get a win against a guy like that is a good feeling.”
His solid play has earned Deslauriers at least one more start, when the Ottawa Senators visit Rexall Place on Tuesday.
“You want to be more constant,” Deslauriers said. “You want to play at your best every night.
“When it’s not going well, you still want to have a good game, and not have it so much one or the other. You try to be in the middle, not have it be at both extremes.”
To say Deslauriers, 25, has been streaky this season is an understatement. In his last two starts, he’s made it look like backup Devan Dubnyk might not play another minute in the Oilers final 17 games.
He gave the same impression from Dec. 3-11, winning five straight games. All told, he’s recorded three shutouts in 39 appearances.
At the other end of the spectrum, Deslauriers has had a six-game losing streak, Dec. 15-28, and a pair of four-game losing streaks, Jan. 12-28 and Feb. 4-10. He allowed four goals on 14 shots in a 5-3 loss to Nashville on Jan. 12, and gave up six goals on 27 shots in a 6-3 loss to the same Predators club on Dec. 17.
In his worst performance this season, Deslauriers allowed four goals on 11 shots in a 7-3 loss to Vancouver Nov. 28. Deslauriers bounced back from that debacle by starting his five-game winning streak in his next outing.
“In goal, of all the positions, you have to be in mental control and it has to be held at a high level,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn.
“Ups and downs affect not just yourself at the end of the night, but it affects the 20 guys who are playing with you. You really want young guys to try to be consistent on that basis.
“We’ve seen high levels out of him, but he’s got to keep working at it to find that. It’s takes learning. I takes discipline. It takes will power. All of those things have to be learned.”
All told, Deslauriers is 14-22-3 with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .903 saves percentage this season while carrying the workload with Nikolai Khabibulin’s season ended by surgery for a herniated disc.
“The workload has been a lot more than he was supposed to get this year,” said goaltending coach Frederic Chabot. “His biggest challenge is to show that he can bring his best game every night.
“One of his qualities is that he likes to compete. He doesn’t blame anybody else when things don’t go his way. He just comes to the rink and works. When things go bad, he picks himself up the next day and works hard.”
Considering Deslauriers had just 10 appearances with the Oilers on his resume coming into this season, the significant swings in his performance aren’t surprising. Minimizing them is the goal.
“Consistency is the big thing,” Chabot said. “That’s what makes you a No. 1 in this league and in any league. “He’s been showing more of that for over a month now.”
Deslauriers and Dubnyk, 23, will need to clear waivers before they can be sent to the minors next season. These final 17 games will go a long way in sorting out the pecking order behind Khabibulin.
“To be goalie you have to be physically in shape and be sharp, but the other part is you have to be mentally tough,” Deslauriers said.
“You learn that as you go every day. That’s how it is. You can have a good game or a bad game. You can have good press or bad press. The next day is the next day. You have to forget pretty quick.”