Saturday, 11 March 2017

Game 69: Habs vs. Oilers


- So it turns out Bryon is healthy enough to play tonight. Both teams about to hit the ice for warmups, we'll post the Habs lines asap.

- And here are the Habs lines for tonight:


- McDavid pushes the Habs crease a little too aggressively, Jordie Benn being awesome, straightens him out.

- Crawling start to this first period, which is just what the Habs would have liked. You play a fast open game against Edmonton, you're almost certain to lose.

- Darnell Nurse and Mike McCarron in a 15 round scrap, for some reason. Game delayed by 4 minutes.

- Let's check the boxes. Andrew Shaw dumb penalty? CHECK. On the "powerplay" to boot. Woot.

- Oilers like to play McDavid at the line, and I wonder if that really is the best way of utilizing his abilities?

- Both teams really clogging up the neutral zone. I'm assuming both teams are concerned about the other guy's speed. Anyway, this all makes for some pretty disjointed hockey.

- Connor McDavid just went wide and turned Andrei Markov inside out. Gonna take a while to clean the mess up.

- Habs very purposefully playing a rope-a-dope game today, just letting the Oilers take their shots, albeit from mostly contained spots on the ice. The game more resembles a chess match. Looks the Habs are just trying to lay low and wait for an Oilers defensive mistake.

- Well, I guess there it is? Habs jump out from their hiding spot when the Oilers Desharnais line has a poor shift, Talbot forced to shut the door as his crease is swarmed.

- Habs now shifting back into a grinding mode. It's a fascinating process to watch behind the facade of what appears to be a nearly unwatchable hockey game. Very methodical, and very impressive.

- Habs powerplay wayyyyyy too tentative, especially zone entries. The Oilers defence isn't as bad as it used to be, but it still isn't great. Drive that puck in hard, guys.

- Impressive period of hockey by the Habs. They clearly had a game plan following the template of a classic road game, and they followed it well. Grind the minutes out, slow the pace, be responsible in your own zone, and wait for the other guys to make a mistake or have a bad shift. While the Habs didn't score, you can see the logic of their approach. It might not lead to victory, but their chances are certainly enhanced if they can maintain their approach.


- Habs had that rope-a-dope thing going the first 10 minutes, then just spanked the Oilers the final 10 minutes of the 1st frame. 5v5 CF: 57.6%. Pretty impressive stuff.

- No coincidence Habs got their game rolling after a Desharnais line shift. He, with Pouliot and Kassian were just over 30% CF in the period. Canadiens are matching and spanking the Oilers when they're on the ice.

- Habs come agonizing close to scoring first, and then Emelin gets manhandled by Lucic, leading to a 2-on-1 break, Lucic being Price low. That doesn't happen if not for Alexei Emelin. At what point is Claude Julien going to receive this screaming message?
- Such a frustrating goal to surrender, because up to that point, the Habs were manhandling Edmonton.

- Sweet God on a stick, Emelin nailed for a 4 minute high stick, trying to make a stupid big hit, instead putting his team short for a long time. Beyond stupid.

- Julien trying to formulate power lines here, Pacioretty with Galchenyuk and Radulov, also Danault. Just anything to muster up a goal.

- Looks like Julien is rotating Emelin out of shifts. Ice time appears to have been reduced significantly since his high sticking penalty.

- Habs unquestionably the better team tonight, they've had bad puck luck, and of course, Emelin doing his Emelin thing to help the Oilers set up for the game's lone goal. Whatcanyado?


- Habs still definitively the better team tonight, but the margins for error when you try to play a classic road game are so thin, you can't afford to make big mistakes a la Emelin. But, that's been the difference:

- Julien still trying to find a way, starts Pacioretty/Galchenyuk/Radulov. Decent shift - seems promising.

- Byron/Danault/Gallagher. Also looking promising.

- First 6 minutes just a grind. Has trying to push the Oilers crease, but the puck isn't bouncing their way. Hasn't all night.

- Oilers trying to do some line matching, sending out the McDavid line whenever the Ott line steps on the ice. Habs just survived that shift (with Emelin also on at the time. Folly!!).

- Habs might have sized up at the deadline, but it's a dearth between King and Ott. Habs just can't keep going this way - both players are utterly incapable of producing any sort of meaningful offence.

- Habs in danger of getting shut out twice in a row - missing only Plekanec from the lineup, who himself has contributed little point scoring this season. Something's got to change (beside Emelin getting scratched), and it seems to me the rot starts from the bottom up. 4th line really isn't doing anything other than providing empty minutes.

- Bryon! Gallagher does the hard work, and Byron slides it home to tie the game with little more than 5 minutes left.
- Galchenyuk! Puck luck turns on a dime in the Canadiens favour, their hard work tonight finally paying dividends. 2-1 Canadiens.
- Gallagher arguably playing his strongest game of the season tonight. He's been a huge presence in the Oilers zone, a significant spark plug for the Habs as a whole.

- Julien sends out Emelin with just over a minute left, the Oilers net empty, McDavid on the ice. A mind numbing deployment, all things considered.

- Bryon the empty netter. Then Pacioretty with gravy. Habs cruise to a well-deserved win. They were the better team tonight, they outworked their opposition, got timely goaltending as usual from Price, and stuck to their gameplan. Excellent end to what is always a tough road swing.


To get you all prepped up for what should be a pretty entertaining game tonight, here are some notes and things to watch out for:

- Oilers lines tonight. They are:



And for the Habbies, unconfirmed but probables:



- As you may have noticed, Alex Radulov will play tonight after missing the past two Habs games with an undisclosed UBI. His return, as you also may have noticed, is welcomed for a roster that continues to struggle offensively.

- Tomas Plekanec will miss another start, he also is dealing with an undisclosed UBI.

- Paul Byron is likely not to start tonight because he caught whatever Carey Price had earlier in the week.

- Alexei Emelin will play, even though he was again terrible Thursday night against the Flames, and even though the Habs defence looked markedly better when he was a healthy scratch last Tuesday night against the Canucks.

- The Oilers are mired in a small slump, winners of just 2 of their past 6 (3 of the past 8). It's bumped them down the standings in the Conference, and while their playoff spot is still reasonably secure, nothing is for certain with both the Calgary Flames and L.A. Kings playing some pretty good hockey the past month.

- Connor McDavid has been racking up the points of late, and he's also the leading player in the NHL for drawing penalties, mainly because he's so damn fast, partly because the refs haven't quite taken full notice just how easily McDavid seems to fall down.

- It's Carey Price (2.28/.923) against Cam Talbot (2.39/.919). You might say "wooo! Carey Price!". I might remind in response, his career numbers against the Oilers: 1 win in 8 starts, 3.75 GAA, .856 Sv%.

- Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Let's check in:

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