Thursday, 29 October 2015

Game Eleven: Habs vs. Oilers


- Habs and Oilers through 40 minutes. That second period was just about as bad as you thought it might be for Montreal:

- Subban with a ridiculous stick scoop to keep the Oilers from narrowing the lead to one goal. That's how much the Habs are flirting with blowing this.

- Oilers matching McDavid line against the struggling Desharnais line. It's a good matchup, with Montreal's 3rd unit really sluggish to match Edmonton's speed.

- Here we go. Davidson a blast from the line on a four-on-four where a second earlier, there were four Habs in the corner puck chasing, and the lead is one. Good riddance for trying to sit on a lead for nearly 30 minutes. 

- Oilers pushing hard, mighty hard now, and Montreal is reeling, just barely hanging on in their own zone. Edmonton on the cusp of tying this game.

- Weise, puck on his stick, close to two seconds to shoot the puck into an empty net two feet away, somehow, someway, misses. Simply putting the puck in would probably had ended this game. But now ...

- And there is it. Pouilot. Another Habs offensive breakdown. Habs fully deserved blowing this lead. Didn't bother playing in the second, and basically handed everything to Edmonton in the 3rd. Collapse is nearly complete.

- Habs seem to be resigned to OT, which isn't much of an option, given that McDavid is playing out of his mind right now. Montreal will almost be certainly curb stomped 3-on-3.

- Collapse compete, Oilers shoot in, Desharnais is easily stripped of the puck, as though he wasn't even there, and one second later, the Oilers win the game. 

- Disgrace. Total disgrace. The Habs had a 3-0 lead, were skating circles around their opponent, and then took a collective vacation at the start of the 2nd period. Instead of continuing to be aggressive, they went into a total shell. And it cost them an easy win. Scratching Semin, putting Flynn on the 2nd line, looks like a catastrophic move, as Flynn gave the Habs close to nothing tonight. This is the kind of a loss that can send a team reeling for weeks. And given how this team was prepared, and how it held it huge lead, it'll be fully deserved. Awful, awful, awful game for the Habs.


- Habs and Oilers through 20 minutes:

- Remember how we mocked McDavid for that dive in the first? It really was that bad:

- I know Scrivens' career took a dive off the cliff, but Talbot doesn't look like much of a solution. 

- Habs increasingly passive as the period goes on, allowing Oilers free reign to carry the zone and take shots at Price. Three goals ain't insurmountable, guys. Punch your cards when the clock hits zero.

- Dale Weise playing the kind of game tonight that likely got Alexander Semin scratched earlier today. Fair is fair, right coach?

- Habs really going through the motions, on pace for two shots in the period. Pretty dismal effort by a team that's clearly trying to coast their way past an inferior opponent.

- Desharnais has been a possession dearth tonight - constantly getting pinned in their own zone. Brian Flynn next to Desharnais has lacked any form of cohesion. 

- Habs lone powerplay a hot mess, which isn't exactly surprising since this team has been so focused on slowing the game down to a crawl this period that passing accuracy has pretty much fallen into an abyss. 

- Referee TJ Luxmore, who's only called 30 NHL games, nails Fleischmann for high sticking, which never goes higher than his waist. Oilers convert on the man advantage to make it 3-1. Luxmore looking a bit over his head tonight.

- Well, Habs three goal lead is now two, and it could have been worse, given how much they sat on their lead in the period. Coach Therrien needs to remind his players that their formula for success this season has been to not sit on any kind of lead. They cannot afford to coast another 20 minutes against this Oilers team, which has the capacity of scoring goals in bunches. 


- So how long before Therrien gives up on playing Flynn on the 2nd line? How long afterward does Dale Weise take that spot? Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how that line produces. Fans might pine for Semin at the end of the night.

- Both teams sputtering badly out of the gate ... no rhythm at either end of the ice, scoring chances have been next to zero so far. This is the type of game you like to play if you're an overmatched visiting team. Thing is, it's the Oilers who are overmatched.

- Habs strike on the powerplay, doing a pretty impressive job passing in the Oilers zone, before Subban releases a point shot that's deflected in by Gallagher. Habs man advantage continuing to show improved confidence. Maybe this 18 month long powerplay nightmare is finally over. 

- Darnell Nurse looks like the real deal. The rest of the Oilers defence, though ... yikes.

- Connor McDavid does a grand belly flop looking for a cheap penalty. 

- Oilers sloppy defence strikes again, poor turnover at their line gifts the puck to Torrey Mitchell, who snaps the puck top corner. Mitchell continues his amazing season start. Whowouldathunkit?

- Wow. Edmonton's defence is just a mess, Markov a lovely pass to a WIDE open Galchenyuk, who has an easy tap in to give the Habs a 3-0 lead. Our pregame speculation about whether this Edmonton team has the defensive horses to get them to the playoffs? Not a chance.

- Brian Flynn looking mighty impressive on the PK. Really wish he'd get more time on that unit.

- Habs more or less taking Oilers to school in that period, with Montreal's forwards causing headaches and turnovers like crazy. Edmonton's defence is, to use a couple of words, pretty woeful. Their offence wasn't anything to write home about either, as the Oilers had difficulty setting up quality chances off the rush - which their scoring lives (or dies) on. Puck luck killed Montreal in Vancouver, tonight it hasn't been a factor, and it's been pretty lopsided.


Has the "City of Champions", and their beloved hockey team finally turned the corner? After 10 years in the NHL hinterlands, could these, the Oilers of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, finally ... FINALLY be icing a competitive team?

The answer, quite clearly is ... we're not sure!

Man, it's been a rough 10 years for this organization. Five bottom basement finishes in the standings, five first overall draft picks, 4 in the past 6 years, and still ... this team hasn't had much of a sniff at a playoff spot since they were (yes, it's true) in the Stanley Cup Final wayyyyyy back in 2006.

Ah, BUT THIS YEAR IT'S DIFFERENT cry out the Edmonton faithful. To a certain extent, they're right. This year's Oilers team is different - is unquestionably better.

Still, are they a playoff contender in 2016? Probably not. We think.

The Oilers big move during the summer was, of course, the drafting of Connor McDavid, who's, as you may have noticed, is off to a terribly good start in his rookie campaign. Five goals and assists in ten games, he's been playing so well that he's making his linemate, former number one overall draft pick, Nail Yakupov, look good. That alone is a pretty impressive achievement.

The story with Edmonton is the usual - an offence with awesome potential and a defence that ... well ... it's an ongoing project.

At the very least, unlike the years of doom and gloom under Kevin Lowe, Edmonton is actually paying attention to their blue line. Leading up to the trade deadline, the Oilers acquired Eric Gryba from the Senators (yes, he of the dirty head check to Lars Eller three years ago), and over the summer, signed Justin Schultz and Brandon Davidson to a (just) one year extensions, and picked up free agent Andrej Sekera and gave him a six year contract. Then there's prized defensive prospect Darnell Nurse, who scored his first NHL goal earlier this week.

So what's the effect. Well, the Oilers are no longer in last place, defensively, at least so far this season. Last year they were ranked 30th overall, this year, 23rd, in goal averages per game. In shots allowed per game, they've gone from 30th, to 22nd. Their penalty kill has also improved, now ranked a respectable 15th overall.

These are improved numbers, but they still aren't great numbers. The trend though, has been established, and it's mostly positive. If the Oilers don't make it to the post season this year, it's a pretty good bet they will in the very near future.

Meanwhile, over in Habsland ... the Canadiens are dealing with a one game losing streak, thanks to some bad bounces and generally sloppy defensive play in Vancouver Monday night. Tonight, the Habs will be making their first lineup adjustment of the season, with Alexander Semin (as predicted on this blog a couple days ago) getting a healthy scratch tonight, his spot on the 2nd line will be taken up by (drum roll please) ... Brian Flynn. WHAT? Yup. Brian Flynn. The Habs 4th line, which has been mostly awesome this season, is being taken apart by Michel Therrien - so hey ... don't look at me about this stuff, I'm just reporting.

Still, pound for pound, ounce for ounce, and on paper, the Oilers are heavily overmatched tonight. There is no *good* reason why the Habs shouldn't get back on the winning track tonight.

We're sure about that. Well, kinda sure. Actually, we have no idea!

Puck drops at 9:10 EST.

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