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PRINCIPE: Kicking Talbot

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot denies Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames on the day his contract was extended.

Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

What a week it was for Cam Talbot. Some 700 NHL players and he wasn't just the first star for a game but for the entire NHL. The League doesn't give you anything for being one of its three stars but it was more about what Talbot gave the Oilers. Super high-end netminding that moved Edmonton to three wins in seven days. Talbot was terrific in making 105 out of a possible 107 saves. Two games where he allowed one goal and one where he didn't allow anything. His best seven days as an Oiler and in the NHL as Talbot said so himself. Even better than his remarkable fill-in work for King Henrik last season in New York.

From the moment Peter Chiarelli sent draft picks to the Rangers in order to get Talbot, Edmonton believed they had acquired their number-one netminder. The only thing left to do was prove it and he's gone about that all season long. It hasn't been without its challenges. In fact, when he spoke of his first star of the week it wasn't long before that goal came up. The one by Michael Frolik from behind the goal line with seconds remaining in a 5-4 Halloween horror against Calgary. We should have known what kind of guy Talbot was when he spoke candidly and honestly after that game about his role in the loss. A standup goalie and a standup guy.

Now standup guy is great but I know it's great goaltending that signifies what Cam Talbot could really mean to Edmonton. It took time, more work in practice, conversations with goalie coach Dustin Schwartz and a determination that one goal or one bad stretch wasn't going to define Talbot. It didn't. Instead, he turned it around and made himself into one of the best and hottest goalies in the league. For example, coming into Thursday night's play, Talbot's save percentage was .919 — the same as Jonathan Quick and Josh Gibson and Martin Jones. Not bad company to be keeping with the netminding cornerstones in California.

However, a reputation and a season is not built alone on one week. Instead, a starting netminder needs to put together about 20 good to very good weeks to make it a season of success. This week started with a slip up. Cam didn't allow a bad goal but a weird one. Losing sight of the puck led to an awkward opening versus San Jose. Time to face another challenge. Time to beat another challenge. Rebounding with a strong night highlighted by a Sportsnet plays of the month stop on Joonas Donskoi. Two nights later and his next victim was Minnesota. 30 shots and 29 saves later, Cam Talbot was the first star of the game in a 2-1 victory.

Talbot was honest this week when talking about signing off on a three-year contract. Having that business sorted and out of the way has given the goalie security. It's something anyone in a career searches for and Talbot has found it in Edmonton. He signed the deal the morning of January 16. Since then he is 10-10-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. The one-time undrafted free agent has moved his career along at a steady incline and there's no doubt that right now Cam is kicking Talbot around the NHL.

-Gene Principe
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