Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Game Nine: Oilers vs. Habs

Wednesday Notes:

- Coach Therrien just answered a few Qs, and indicated that Tinordi's demotion was to provide him with more playing time than he's currently receiving in the bigs. So ... why not just give him more, and say, Bouillon less? /snark.

Therrien added that the club is considering bringing up Greg Pateryn from Hamilton, which is making me go "hmmm ...", with Emelin and Murry on the horizon for return, I find it curious that Therrien is considering rotating in another young defender. Organizational depth is a wonderful luxury, but there comes a point of excess. So I'm thinking ... trade in the works? UPDATE: Indeed, Pateryn has received the call-up from Hamilton. This *could* mean that he'll be slotted in as the #6, while Beaulieu will platoon on the 4th, pushing Holland on to the scratch list tomorrow night.

- Jarred Tinordi was assigned to Hamilton this morning. Which means Nathan Beaulieu can probably count on not getting sent back to southern Ontario - at least for awhile. Tinordi had a strong pre-season, but has struggled in many of his regular season starts. Hopefully the Hamilton stint will help to recapture that physical edge that caught so many eyes when he was called up for the post-season series against the Sens.

Practice lines this morning were exactly as the starting lines from last night's game:


- Interesting little quip this morning about that fight last night between Moen and Acton Gadzic that was interceded by the linesmen, apparently because the League front office has sent a directive that officials are to stop fights whenever possible (or so that's the word). Moen this morning said that one of the linesmen apologized to him afterward about stopping the fight, and explained that he was following League orders. Interesting.


Final Score: Edmonton 4, Montreal 3

Let's break it down:

Corsi (all): Habs 54.1% Oilers 45.9%
Moen: 65.2%
Eller: 61.5%
Galchenyuk: 60.0%
Desharnais: 45.2%
Holland: 38.5%

Fenwick (all): Habs 50.6% Oilers 49.4%
Moen: 61.5%
Plekanec: 58.3%
Gionta: 58.3%
Desharnais: 35.0%

No surprises here. After cooling off the past couple of games, the Eller line rebounded nicely last night, and were by far the most dangerous line for the Habs. However, for whatever reason, coach Therrien doesn't seem to be rewarding their performances with increased icetime. His bench management stubbornly continues to give the Eller and Plekanec lines equal time, including the insistent deployment of Plekanec as the first line powerplay. It (again) hurt the Habs last night, who had two man advantages that went nowhere that could have drilled a stake into the OIlers' coffin.

Defensively, the Plekanec line was on the ice for three of the Oilers first goal (much of that can be blamed on Rene Bourque's lackadaisical defensive play), but they weren't the only culprits. The Habs defense was particularly porous last night, allowing the Oilers speedy forwards free reign to attack the Habs slot in the 3rd, resulting in two goals from high percentage shooting positions. Francis Bouillon continues to be over deployed, and the Oilers were skating circles around him - posting team defensive low 42.1% Corsi combined. That's bad. Bouillon is a coaching favorite, but his presence beyond a 12 minute game is hurting this team, especially in the defensive zone.

Price didn't have his "A" game going last night, but he wasn't the differing factor in the loss.

Two other matters. First, Desharnais. I know, broken record, but we're now entering inexcusable performance territory. One measly point in nine games for the guy who was supposedly the team's #2 center. He isn't that anymore. He's now degenerated into a marginal NHL forward. This is Scott Gomez territory, except that Desharnais is smaller and even more ineffective in the opposition zone. Last night's performance was particularly dismal - Deshairnas' passing to his wingers was atrociously inaccurate. At some point, the Canadiens will have to make some kind of an intervention, because his production simply cannot continue to be overlooked anymore.

Finally, the Oilers post-game comments singled out Eller's "junior team" quip as their inspiration for victory. That's wonderful. Congrats to Edmonton for their inspired play. But one win does not preclude Eller's apt description of the Oilers' style. They *are* a freewheeling, disorganized collection of raw talent. This means they do have tremendous potential of winning games that resemble shootouts. But when it comes down to putting together quality victories over quality opponents, the Oilers aren't a quality team. They lack cohesion and discipline. That makes them at best, an average team, and at worst, a franchise that's likely headed nowhere.

Third Period:

- Stats check, Habs are now -3 in the 2nd period this season. Way above even first and third periods.
- Subban and Markov are probably both going to cross past the 27 minute mark through 60 minutes.

- White, Eller and Gallagher on the ice. Wonder if Galchenyuk is getting a little punishment for dogging it back on the Oilers' first goal?

- Looking at the line, it's been a pretty dreadful night for Desharnais. His passing has been terrible - this might be his worst game in what has already been a very poor start to the year.

- Bouruqe has had a decent night, but he's not gaining any favours saddled with Desharnais. At this point, I'd almost be tempted to move him next to Plekanec.

- Sometimes P.K. Subban just takes your breath away. At this moment, there is nobody better on the blue line in hockey. Absolutely nobody.

- Ryan White. How do you not teach foolishness? Oilers with open ice now with a 4-on-4.

- Petry. Pretty pass from Nugent-Hopkins. Plekanec again. Oilers take lead.

- So the "junior team" factor. How much is inspiring the Oilers towards winning this?

- It's all come apart. Perron. Guess who's on the ice? Plekanec line.

- That shot was stoppable, from Price's POV. But it still doesn't excuse the wretched turnovers by the Habs in the neutral zone.

- Plekanec, Gionta, Galchenyuk, Bourque, Bouillon are combined -10 so far. The first four listed have not been covering their assignments tonight. That's a big part of the story.

- Habs defense doing a fine red carpet impersonation. The team is more or less in collective shambles.

- Habs now look like the team at the end of a six game road swing.

- So who looks like the junior team tonight?

- Habs put in 20 minutes of decent hockey tonight. The rest was shambles. Only the EGG line and Subban showed up. And Bournival. The rest of the crew, let's hear the excuses. 

- Stats breakdown and post-mortem later, It doesn't get much easier for the Habs. The Ducks Thursday, and then ... gulp ... Sharks on Saturday. 

Second Period:

- First period line wasn't totally lopsided, Corsi +3, Fenwick +2. But Habs had shot advantage 14-8', and completely dominated the faceoff circle winning 15 out of 19. Yikes.

- Decent rebound by Edmonton to start the period, but you can't fake your way through tired legs. 

- If trend continues, Markov and Subban might clock in the high 20s tonight for icetime. Predictably, Therrien has the short leash on the new guy - Holland barely has 2 minutes so far.

- Rousing applause as Roman Hamrlik's attendance is announced. Classy response by those in attendance.

- Desharnais for holding, inexcusable since Edmonton is the chasing team. Habs getting into some penalty trouble, seemingly looking for ways to let the Oilers back into this game.

- Nice little confidence vote by Therrien, as Holland gets some PK time (and does well).

- Gallagher fearless driving the Oilers net, but not so enthusiastic (as well as Galchenyuk) coming back to cover his assignment, as Hemsky with loads of room to waltz right to the slot, cuts Habs lead in half. 2-1.

- Habs were coasting, tempting fate by taking a passive attitude controlling the tempo. Oilers quietly have wrestled themselves back into contention. Therrien won't be pleased.

- Oy. Plekanec can't clear the zone, Nugent-Hopkins with a wrister that causes Price to surrender a sweet rebound, which is buried by Smid coming in off the point. Tie game. Shades of Columbus all over again where the Habs had total control, took their eyes off the ball, and have let the opposition wrestle control. No way this tired Edmonton team should be on even terms. But here we are.

- Wow. Habs combined Corsi was 66% before the Smid goal. Crazy lobsided except for the scoreboard.

- Eller line is totally (and I mean TOTALLY) dominating possession tonight, but still isn't getting more time than the Plekanec line. 

- Great reaction save by Dubnyk to keep Gallagher off the scoresheet. That line is motering.

- Hugely disappointing period for the Habs, but it continues a disturbing trend for Montreal this season - their second periods have been pretty terrible. If Edmonton somehow wins this, Habs fans are going to be mighty grumpy.

First Period:

- Second shift White line is put out. Signal that Therrien wants Habs to be physical?

- Reportedly many scouts are in attendance tonight - teams are smelling blood in Edmonton's waters already, and might be seeking a bargain.

- Solid shift for Bouruqe, working hard for the puck along the boards, generally not being invisible.

- Excellent pad save by Dubnyk on Gallagher. That could set the tone for the evening.

- Oilers Arconello line looks fired up tonight. See if they'll make a mark on the scoresheet.

- Beating dead horse watch: Habs first powerplay, Therrien stubbornly sticks with Plekanec/Gionta/Bourque to start. By the time Eller line is sent out, Subban/Markov combo is off. 

- Oilers 3rd and 4th lines really struggling to contain Habs attack. Saw plenty of hooks and slashes until finally a trip was called. Habs go back to the powerplay.

- Plekanec one-times off a sweet cross ice pass from Markov. 1-0.

- Oilers look tired out there. Makes sense, last game of a long trip.

- Oilers are an exhausted mess. Chasing the puck, sloppy turnovers, and Gallagher intercepts an ill-advised and silps a sweet wrister past Dubnyk. Habs already in command.

- Oilers Acton Gadzic drops the gloves with Moen, looking to stop the bleeding. Officials intercede, no fight. Fans are miffed, but good work from the lines to break that up before it started.

- Oilers' defense is incredibly passive. Just backing up and giving Habs forwards free reign to come right at Dubnyk.

- Ugly period for Edmonton. Game started eveny enough, but from the 10 minute mark forward, Habs were all over Edmonton like an ugly coat. Advanced stats shortly.

Pre-Game Lineups:



Yakupov-Nugent Hopkins-Eberle(?)

Belov-J. Schultz

Not that the Habs should be chest-beating, but that's a pretty thin Oilers lineup. After the 2nd line ... hmm ... it's looking pretty rough.

In other gameday news, Lars Eller ruffled a few feathers today after making comments about the Oilers' "junior" style of play:

Gameday Game Preview:

So this oughtta be interesting.

The underwhelming Edmonton Oilers will take on the Habs tonight at the Bell Centre, puck drop around 7:40 EST. The game will be the only visit of the year by the oil, their final destination in what has been a relatively disastrous six game road trip. The swing through the east has produced an underwhelming 1-4-0 record for Edmonton, although they did manage to grab a W in Ottawa Sunday afternoon, following a strong performance by their first-string (?) netminder Devan Dubnyk.

The road trip has been especially tough on the Oilers, not only because they've lost 4 out of 5, but they've also seen a couple of critical offensive weapons hitting the injury list. Ryan Smyth, who strained his groin last week in a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to the Leafs, is gone for at least another week. Meanwhile club scoring leader Taylor Hall had a knee-on-knee collision with Eric Gryba of the Sens this weekend, and he'll be out of the lineup for at least a month.

Can we make it even worse? There's no confirmation as of this writing that Jordan Eberle is able to start tonight. He's got an undisclosed injury.


If there's any consolation for Edmonton fans, it's that Habs fans can relate to having a depleted roster. The Canadiens have lost not only Max Pacioretty for at least another couple of weeks, but also key grinder Brandon Prust with a shoulder injury until late November, and Daniel Briere for ... who knows how long? Briere is sidelined with concussion from a head hit taken Saturday night.

Oh yeah. Can't forget George Parros - he's still indefinite from concussion. And Alexei Emelin (not due back for another month). And Doug Murry (not due back for another month).

Have I left anyone out?

In response to the rash of hurtin' bodies, the Habs called up Nathan Beaulieu (who might get some 4th line action), Mike Blunden (ditto) and Patrick Holland (double ditto). This all means that Travis Moen will probably get bumped up to 2nd or 3rd line duties, Ryan White will probably stay 4th line centre, with Bluden and Holland on the wing, and Beaulieu as the 6th defenseman, possibly rotating in for some 4th line shifts depending on how well Holland performs. Jarred Tinordi will be a healthy scratch.

So .. lots of juggling happening here. New lineups, different line mates, it all creates the heightened potential for a sputtering, sloppy game.

The teams. Well, the Oilers are off to a pretty disappointing start, we've rehashed this before about how entering the season, Edmonton was *finally* going to be a competitive force in the Western Conference. However, team defense and inconsistent starting goaltending has resulted in a string of close loses. The Oilers play so far reminds me quite a bit of the Habs' dreadful 2010-11 season of countless one-goal losses. Edmonton, like that Habs team, aren't awful - they're just not quite good enough to eek out close-margin victories.

Even with all their injuries, the Habs enjoy the luxury of depth - Blunden and Holland are quality replacement players, and while replacing someone like Prust is difficult, if not impossible, it still doesn't compare to the situation Edmonton is facing in having to replace Smyth, Hall, and Simon Gagne (and maybe Eberle as well).

So roster-wise, major advantage to the Habs tonight.

No announcement yet on starting goaltenders. Probably it's Carey Price and Dubnyk.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, even anonymously. All I ask is that you behave, and in support of good taste, avoid the use of course language, or express opinions that are just plain silly (racist, sexist, etc.)