TORONTO – In the quiet of a lonely bus ride back to Toronto, Ben Scrivens was stung by the weight of a three-goal loss to Hamilton that night.
"It's never a good feeling feeling like you let the guys down," said Scrivens of the Marlies 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs on Friday evening. "It's definitely not a good feeling having that realization within yourself that other guys can say 'hey we did this, we did that' but when you look at yourself in the mirror it's like you know what, that's on me.
"That's not a good feeling."
From the dust of a low point in the Hammer – he allowed five goals on 28 shots – Scrivens arose with his first set of back-to-back wins this season, including his first shutout of the year on Sunday afternoon, a 24-save blanking of the Abbottsford Heat at Ricoh Coliseum.
"That's the kind of goaltending that we remember," said coach Dallas Eakins, referring to the sharp, commonplace efforts Scrivens compiled in bulk last season. "He was calm, he was cool and our team was confident with him in the net. These last two games are giant strides for Ben moving forward."
Short on tip-top results in the first month of his third pro season – .894 save percentage prior to this weekend – Scrivens was in very real danger of losing what should be a firm grip on the Marlies starting job. Back-up Jussi Rynnas raced ahead with three wins and two shutouts in his first four starts and was actually pegged to play against the Bulldogs on Friday. A groin injury on the day of the game swung the door back for open for Scrivens, who proceeded to start the full weekend slate. "The results aren't there and it feels like you're working hard, but it's not coming for you," said Scrivens. "And then you realize well maybe there's a gear I'm not in, maybe I can work harder, but it's tough to know that. You work as hard as you can and then you're like 'Well actually maybe I'm not working hard enough' even though the whole time you feel like you're working as hard as you possibly can.
"I don't want to be like yeah I'm there because it's two games; one bad game and all of a sudden [the current is altered again], so it's a work in progress. Obviously you take these past two games and there's a lot of positives in them to build off of, but now it comes back to practice and trying to repeat those over and over again and try to get a rhythm out of it."
Eakins mentioned after a 6-1 Marlies victory on Saturday that Scrivens "may have gotten a little comfortable" in the early stages of the season, also noting a string of "bad luck". There's no question, however, that the expectations for the 26-year-old – which included him potentially challenging James Reimer for the Leafs number one job – weren't being met in the initial stages of the Marlies campaign. His focus over the weekend, stumbling before picking himself back up, offered some much-needed optimism (and results) from the shadows of a slow start.
"It's tough to see the forest through the trees sometimes," Scrivens concluded. "You just have to focus on the process. That's been tough to do I guess a little bit, just focusing on the right things I guess would say. But hopefully I've turned a corner here.