SUN Hockey Pool

Give Garon go-ahead

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Mathieu Garon has essentially been declared the new starting goaltender of the Edmonton Oilers because if the Oilers don't win four out of five on the current homestand, you can probably kiss the playoffs goodbye.

If they don't win seven or eight out of 10 prior to the all-star break, you can consider their season to be toast.

The Oilers can't wait for spring. They have to do it now.

With a team which ranks 30th in scoring and 29th on the power play, that means they're going to have to have a hot goalie. Now! Coach Craig MacTavish had run out of time before finally facing the obvious. "We're at a real critical stage of the season with five straight at home. It's been tough to decide who to play, but Mathieu is deserving of the opportunity the way he's played," said MacTavish.

Roloson, 38, has been showing signs of his age when you watch him try to get from post-to-post some nights. He's had no consistency.

Garon, who turns 30 Wednesday, now gets to be the guy.

"It's all I can ask for. When you know the coach has confidence in you, you want to win for him," says Garon.

"The coaches and the GM are so professional. They know what they're talking about and treat me really well. And I love it in Edmonton. I'm really enjoying it. I've only been here for four or five months but me, my wife and my family - everybody - really enjoys it here. It just seems like the right time and place for me."

As a rule, a coach will go with the guy his general manager is paying $3.5 million over the guy getting $1.2. But if the story hasn't been totally obvious to the naked eye, it's all there in the stats for everyone to see anyway.

Garon is 11-9-1. Roloson is 7-12-3. Garon has a goals against average of 2.53 to Roloson's 3.12. Garon has a save percentage of .911 to Roloson's .901. But that's just the half of it.

Edmonton leads the league with an 11-2 record in the shootout. If the Oilers go to a shootout again tonight against the New York Islanders and win, they'll have matched the Dallas Stars record for shootout wins (12) in a season and double the number of games they've won in regulation (6) this season.

Coaches don't select goalies by who they think has the best chance to win if the team gets to a shootout. But this one can't help but think about it.

"Normally I wouldn't give any consideration to it but we have so many more wins in shootouts, it's a factor," says MacTavish.

"He's the best goalie in the league in a shootout."

Garon is 7-0. Only two of the 23 shootout players he's faced has been able to beat him.

Roloson has given up five more goals in one fewer shootout session.

Garon certainly has developed his own style as a shootout goalie, aggressively challenging the shooter and then closing off the space with his speed and using his post-to-post athleticism to take away everything low and just about everything else as well.

"Watching other goalies, no one seems to do it the same way," Garon said.

"Speed can be an advantage."

There's another key, he says.

"I try not to think too much. Guys like Scott Gomez or Jaromir Jagr have a lot of moves. But they're only going to do one."

Even in the Oilers circumstances, you have to be more than a shootout specialist.

Garon has had his chances before like the one MacTavish is giving him now.

"There haven't been a lot of negatives since he got here. One thing previously in his career is that he hasn't been able to establish himself as a No. 1 goalie," said MacTavish.

"With goalies, who knows when they develop?"

While the Oilers weren't looking for a starting goaltender, figuring Roloson could carry them to the end of his contract next year and make way for Jeff Deslauriers from the minors, Garon has been a bonus.

He says he's a guy who got labelled.

"We didn't make the playoffs two years in a row in Los Angeles and sometimes the goalies have to pay for it," he said.

He's even been labelled a loser.

"I know I'm not that person. I know I'm someone different," he said.

This would be the time and place to prove it.


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