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Edmonton's Cam Talbot Writing New Chapters in His Unlikely Rise to Stardom

This year, both Talbot and the Oilers have managed to shed tags that have dogged them for so long.
Photo by Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

In 2007, Cam Talbot was beginning his first year at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, undrafted with virtually no prospect of making the NHL. Around the same time, the Edmonton Oilers set off on their decade-long run of futility.

Ten long years later, after being written off repeatedly in the time leading up to this moment, both goalie and team have elevated their game at the same time, with Talbot's Oilers ahead 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against the veteran San Jose Sharks.


Talbot has held the reigning Stanley Cup finalists scoreless in the past two games, becoming the first Oilers goalie with back-to-back playoff shutouts since Curtis Joseph managed the feat in the 1998 Western Conference quarterfinals. After a 42-win regular season that broke Grant Fuhr's franchise record, his understated play and persona are finally being noticed.

READ MORE: Appreciating Cam Talbot, Because No One Else Will

The soft-spoken Caledonia, Ontario, native, always quick to deflect praise onto his teammates, didn't have the neatly orchestrated elite prospect journey to the NHL that many players enjoy. He was an underdog at each step of the way. Playing college hockey on an abysmal team that only won five games in his sophomore season, Talbot didn't truly considerbecoming an NHL goalie until his last few weeks at school when, without an agent or advisor, he signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers in 2010.

What followed were three years toiling away in the AHL and ECHL until finally, at the age of 26, making his first NHL start and serving as Henrik Lundqvist's backup—truly a dead-end job—for another three years before being traded to the Oilers in 2015.

Photo by Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Even after he arrived in Edmonton, Talbot faced the adversity he's grown accustomed to—in a stretch of bad games at the end of October 2015, he gave up 15 goals in four contests and briefly lost the starting role to Anders Nilsson, who made 10 of 13 starts in November. As soon as the streaky Nilsson faltered, however, Talbot reestablished himself in net, performing well enough the rest of the season to earn a three-year, $12 million extension.


It wasn't until this season that Talbot proved his ability to not only handle the workload of a starter, but excel with the increased responsibility—he started 73 games and won 42 of them while making a total of 1,946 saves, all good for first in the NHL.

"Every time we need a save, he seems to be there," said teammate Jordan Eberle after Edmonton's 1-0 win on Sunday night.

In that game, it was a sense of quiet confidence and not debilitating anxiety that emerged after the Oilers took a 1-0 lead with 9:15 left in the third period. "Cam was Cam," as lone goal-scorer Zack Kassian put it after the game. Talbot made a number of difficult saves against a desperate Sharks team to close out the win, punctuated by a point-blank stop on Joel Ward with six minutes remaining.

This year, both Talbot and the Oilers have managed to shed tags that have dogged them for so long—perpetual backup and basement dweller—as two underdogs who helped take each other to new heights. And that underdog tag still sticks—on Sunday night, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman called a potential Oilers series win over the Sharks a "massive upset," despite Edmonton coming into the first round with home-ice advantage.

This team is used to it, though. The Oilers have been playing through the loud static of skepticism and adversity all year and are now speaking volumes through their playoff performance, led by a goalie accustomed to quieting doubters with deafening silence on the scoresheet.