Sunday, 5 February 2017

Game 54: Oilers vs. Habs

Edmonton 1, Montreal 0 (SO):


So Danault is good to go today, but ah, there's a twist with Habs lineup today. With Danault confirmed in, Galchenyuk will play *wing* on the 2nd line, with Desharnais drawing back into the lineup to center him. 

So near as we know, this is Therrien's thinking today:

De La Rose/Mitchell/Andrighetto

So Brian Flynn is the healthy scratch.

- So for about 3 years, Michel Therrien had Alex Galchenyuk play the wrong position as a winger before *finally* getting it right, and moving him up the middle. So putting him back on the wing is a rather baffling decision. No less, next to Desharnais. 

- Pretty meek shifts so far from the Desharnais line, Danault line looks pretty good early- Radulov as per usual with his spark plug impersonation.

- Awful tripping call on Weber who made a good play checking McDavid, but the officials follow their orders and call their biases accordingly. Bad, bad, bad.

- McDavid clearly trying to draw penalties, flopping down on minimal contact. Shaw his latest attempt, the officials not buying (this time).

- Let's add Plekaenc to the attempt to penalize list. Pathetic.

- Kind of an unsung acknowledgement, but Plekanec has done a good job keeping McDavid mostly in check this period. Oilers trying to match the McDavid line with the Mitchell line in response. Last change especially important today, will Therrien use it to maximum effect?

- Habs weakest link continues to be their blue line - Weber and Emelin still prone to significant breakdowns in their own zone. 

- Canadiens survive the first period, with Montoya playing very well in stopping 15 shots, although not many of them were high danger opportunities. Even though the officials seem to be missing calls, it's imperative the Canadiens stay out of the box from here on out, if only to keep the score close. Meanwhile, the Habs offence with a pretty quiet period - the adjustments made by Therrien showing little sign of success. Will Galchenyuk return to center as soon as today? We can only hope.


- Habs ES CF was 44.1% in that first period, which had a nice little vibe you sometimes feel as you get closer to the playoffs:

- McDavid is on pace to play 24+ minutes today, which is an incredible total for a forward. Sure, at his age he could probably play 40 minutes a night, but this stuff tends to be cumulative, even for a young body. 

- Habs offensive woes continue to originate from the backend, with the Canadiens defenders doing a hapless job feeding the puck up ice. Oilers are doing a very good job at centre ice intercepting mostly long bomb passes. It's only a matter of time one of these turnovers will lead to an Edmonton goal.

- Oilers 4th line, centered by Letestu, having a very good game - not only stifling the Habs with an aggressive forecheck, but also generating some decent shots on Montoya. Canadiens would love to have this kind of performance and production from their 4th, but with Mitchell and Flynn, there's not much you can do.

- Hate to be a paid customer for tonight's game. The super-paranoid Habs are trying to draw the pace of the game into a crawl, while struggling to put together even a simple rush with the puck. Oilers are just pecking away at Montoya, a good strategy since they know their opponent isn't posing any danger. Eventually something will beat Montoya.

- Don't understand the Habs strategy here - a defence-only game doesn't work if you can't even muster up shots against your opponent. Canadiens, the few times they have the puck, are dumping it in from center ice, and more-or-less retreating back to their end. 

- Try, try, try again. McDavid now suckers another penalty, this time Emelin for a "hook". 

- Referees Dan O'Halloran and Francois St. Laurant are being made fools of today by McDavid. They're not very good, they never have been, never will be. McDavid knew this, and has exploited it to maximum effect.

- Just. Kill. Me. Habs totally camped in the Oilers zone on the powerplay for well over a minute, registering zero shots on Talbot. Looking for cute plays. Just stupefying.

- Second period not unlike the first, Oilers with the initiative and most of the scoring opportunities, while the Habs more or less just sat back and tried to contain. I guess "mission accomplished"? Assuming that the goal was to keep the score "close" going to the 3rd period. Who knows. What is apparent is the Habs have driven themselves into a serious offensive rut, poor puck management by the defence, and a passive attack by the forwards who seem more interested in developing pretty scoring attempts over just getting the puck on net. It's frustrating to witness.


- Habs with that "defence-only" hockey really paying off dividends, huh? 39% CF at even strength. 

- Habs doing a better job in the neutral zone to start the period, which is generating a few more + turnovers. Still, passing is sloppy, and shot attempts are mainly coming from long distances.

- Therrien line juggling, Andrighetto taken from 4th line, now with Galchenyuk and Desharnais. Byron appears to be odd-man out.

- Byron back with DD and AK27. So that was a short-lived experiment.

- Habs at least generating some shot attempts here, Radulov doing some great hard work, but his linemates doing a lousy job getting into a shooting position. That's another issue today - the Canadiens, the few times they've been set up in the Oilers zone, are not setting themselves to receive the puck for a decent shot on Talbot.

- Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnddddddddd ... que the Andrew Shaw bad 3rd period penalty.

- 7 minutes left, Oilers are pushing, Habs bunkering in their own zone. Canadiens are getting outworked for the puck, especially at centre ice. 

- Shea Weber is officially a defensive liability. Put speed against him, you might as well have a pylon out there.

- In addition to 1) having Galchenyuk on wing, 2) Desharnais 2nd line centre, Therrien really missed the boat with Andrighetto, subjecting him to 4th line play. He's been one of the Habs better forwards today (and yesterday). 

- Habs "best" period of the game, for what it's worth. At least a point gained from the weekend. 3-on-3 will heavily favour the Oilers. 


- I'd give the Habs a 1/10 chance of beating the Oilers in OT. And I'm being generous.

- No idea why Therrien decided not to put out his best checking forwards to counter McDavid to start OT. The Habs manage to survive.

- Therrien sends out Desharnais (sigh), boom McDavid gets a breakaway. Montoya with game saver. OT deployments have been awful.

- Whelp, shootout we go. We had to endure almost 3 hours of stifling hockey to get here.

- Radulov and ... Byron? Okay then.

- Habs made Cam Talbot look a lot better than he actually was today, including that shootout. Alex Galchenyuk not given a turn, which ... whatever. Another opportunity goes past the board.

- Just to recap and remind, the Habs, save Gallagher, have a totally healthy lineup up front. The Oilers are missing two regular top 4 defensemen, and this is your final result:


Hey, have you heard the news? The Edmonton Oilers are going to be in the playoffs!! Well, that was pretty much a given last week. This week? Well ... the Oilers are still in a very good position in the Western Conference, but hold the phone for a moment, Edmonton has suddenly found itself in a bit of a losing streak, 3 straight entering this afternoon's game at the Bell Centre.

The issues are this week as they have been for about 10 years in Edmonton, mainly defensive. Matters were not helped after Matthew Benning suffered a facial injury during Friday night's loss to Carolina. With Kris Russel already injured, Edmonton has had to call up Jordan Osterle, a rather young and inexperienced blue liner, to fill the gap. Toss in Darnell Nurse, who had ankle surgery in December and won't return until March at the earliest, and the Oilers have some big issues at the blue line.

Still, Edmonton is built on, and thrives off, offence. You know the story. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisitl have been All-World this season. Toss in the usual cast of characters, the Jordan Eberles, the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins's, the Patrick Maroons, and you've got yourself a team that can beat anyone on any given night (or day), be dammed how many of their defensemen are on injury reserve.

For the Habbies, it's not been a fun week, even with the team returning to health, they couldn't compete with the Washington Capitals yesterday for much of 60 minutes played, even if the final score indicated a close game (it wasn't). Phillip Danault, who's played a big role this year in stepping up his game to help his team get through a dodgy injury crisis, was himself hurt during the 2nd period of the Caps game, with an undisclosed upper body injury. He'll be a game time decision.

So the lines today are more or less settled for Edmonton:



Assuming Danault can play, expect Therrien to put out the same lines as yesterday. However if he can't, expect Alex Galchenyuk to reunite on the first line, and David Desharnais, who was a healthy scratch yesterday, to draw in to play the 3rd line. Until we know at game time, however, it's all speculation.

It's Cam Talbot against Al (Tony) Montoya.

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