I'm always very glad to beat these guys, but mostly to beat their strange edmonton-based fans that try to own the rink every time they play here. It's one thing to be loud and maybe even obnoxious, but I still find booing the home team sad and distasteful. I still don't understand why so many season ticket holders give up their tickets without at least accompanying these strange folk to the game to even out the numbers. I was very happy with the guys tonight for a) getting the first goal to keep the Habs fans relatively quiet and b) winning by more than 1 to keep the fans from getting too noisy and excited during the end. It really seems as though the Montreal fans that are Edmonton-based lack the supposed hockey IQ of their Quebec-based counterparts, but do possess the same attitude of being above other fanbases. Needless to say I don't enjoy dealing with that.
I think there were some pretty clear keys to the win tonight that most people got:
- Our goalie was much better than their goalie.
- The D, which is already weak, suffered an injury and made our pathetic blue look formidable.
- In the third after the Oilers got the lead, they played a simple game, got the puck deep, and made the necessary effort to hold the lead. They played like a playoff team holding a lead (other than lacking killer instinct on the PP, though at least they didn't take any exceptionally stupid or wild shots).
Montreal plays a very interesting style that seems reliant on forcing the other team into turnovers. They do this by having active, well placed sticks and clogging lanes. Early on we had a ton of trouble with this and several promising rushes or chances were foiled by a Montreal stick that would look random or flukey if it weren't so consistent. Credit to them on their execution of this plan generally and I can see why it would work for them. They do have a lot of players who can jump to chances and make something happen. In addition to their currently weak D, they missed Mike Cammalieri tonight a ton. He might've made this a closer game.
The reffing tonight was intriguing to say the least in that it was pretty much prison rules for the first 2 periods. Not that it was an ugly game, but there was some stuff that probably should've been called in today's league and was let go. If games were consistently reffed like this, I'd love it and we'd have a much more entertaining game, but they aren't. When we were finally able to convince the ref that yes indeed we were playing the game too and got a PP, we may not have converted but you certainly felt something slip away from MTL.
A few words on Mr. Subban:
- I don't think he's really a defenceman. He's most effective at the opposition blue line while rushing, looks for the hit too much, and doesn't get to use his skating. He's a power forward.
- A small play some may have missed, but I think he helped Eberle who had fallen near the net by making sure his head didn't whack the post. Very gentlemanly of him. Much more than I can say for a bunch of his teammates.
- Players certainly know he's there and adjust on the ice, but both Hall and Eberle figured out how to go right at him with success. He'll need to work on that.
LMHF#2 is having a particularly psychic run lately; not only did he call the scores and result of the last 2 wins, but he called what type of pop I was going to have tonight and a couple other things. If anyone wants a prediction I'd suggest getting into contact with him. Crazy.
On to the players...
- His best game of the year. He was on and flat robbed MTL on several occasions. They executed successful cross-crease plays (including one which would have been a game-changer in the second) and #35 made the save and made it look easy. He was way ahead of the play tonight and showed his confidence late by playing the puck a little more than usual. I'm not sure where these performances have come from, but he was certainly the biggest reason we won tonight. The only goal MTL scored was because he was hit on the play and didn't recover.
- Though his feet were still moving slowly and he took an awkward bunch/forearm to head in the third, Foster managed to have a decently strong game defensively. He was more committed to his coverages than usual and especially in the third. When we win it will often be because guys like he and Vandermeer push their effort in the defensive zone just a little higher.
- Mixed game from him but mostly in the positive due to some stronger defensive play in the second half of the game. I'd count his mistakes as two ill-advised pinches and a couple ugly giveaways, but he covered up for most of them alright. He did a solid job of being in the right position and went out of his way to make some hits, which is something the Oilers D hasn't done near enough of when it has had the chance as a unit to grate on opposition forwards.
- He got two really solid shots on net tonight, both while on the move. One nearly went in on its own and another was nearly tipped in. He's much much more confident this time around. I didn't notice him a lot in the defensive zone, which is generally a good thing. He certainly wasn't perfect, but this was a solid effort
- I hope Ladislav is okay. he was having a decent enough positional game and did some solid things with the puck on his stick. He's always best when he does a decent amount of skating with the puck and he was doing that tonight. Quite composed. The only glaring error I'll point out is that he put a really bad screen on Khabibulin once or twice that could have cost us big.
- Though this wasn't an extremely physical effort, Montreal certainly knew he was there. He played a pretty solid game for the most part and came away in the positive. I think many of the Oilers learned early from MTL's approach to the game and more shots were blocked. Peckham being one of the best at that.
- Another excellent, albeit quieter, effort from the man who needs to be our #1 D right now. Solid with the puck, took his time and got into the right positions all night long.
- This was probably the best game I've seen Jacques play in terms of actually contributing to a win. He got a chance in the third on a bit of a rush with Reddox and Jones to make a solid NHL play, took his time, located Jones and made a really nice pass to set up the huge 3-1 goal. It was simple but for Jacques it was a victory and I appreciated the play. He also laid some some hits and got in the way productively at other times. There were still shifts where I felt he'd be better either ignoring the puck totally or playing without a stick, but he made a contribution to the win. Jones created problems for MTL's tired D at several junctures tonight, using his strong N-S skating and drive for the puck to pressure them, then finally capitalizing on his best clear chance in the third. He could have had at least 2 tonight, as a couple of his other chances were pretty good. Liam got beat down pretty hard on the faceoff dot, but I liked his effort 5-on-5. He does a really solid job of skating in the proper lane as well as driving the net. If you noticed on Jones goal, Reddox befuddled Subban and was actually in behind Price ready for a leaked puck if need be. These guys really helped the cause tonight
- Magnus had a shift in the third that I think really speaks to his potential as a strong two-way 5-on-5 guy. He made a great little backcheck play to break up an initial Montreal rush, then after some milling about, grabbed a loose puck, skated it out of danger and dumped it deep. It was a fairly simple shift but a great example of hockey IQ + skill + effort. Magnus had some chances to do offensive damage, but either didn't get the shots off or was stymied by MTL's active sticks. Linus got even sweeter chances, including a wonderful breakaway pass from Magnus (which me made a good choice and shot on but just missed) and a screen/tip/rebound play that was thwarted by an MTL defender. He does need to start converting on some of these. He drew the first MTL penalty, which was no small feat tonight. He struggled a little in the defensive and neutral zones, but also had a really nice backchecking play in the third that I hadn't seen from him before yet and would indicate him learning to use his skills at both ends of the ice, which is a plus. I truly think he's a guy you can refine into an excellent defensive winger. Too many tools to waste. Sam was a little quieter than usual tonight, but seemed to play a pretty strong supporting game. This line wasn't leaned on heavily with the rookies going and Hemsky's line dealing with many minutes, but they were certainly not a hindrance and could have scored a goal or two.
- Try as I might, I just don't think I can give Cogliano a passing grade. His result was okay, but there were just way too many times in all zones that the play died with him. He missed a phenomenal chance that should have been a gimme goal in period 2. Thankfully he wasn't forced to defend much sustained pressure from MTL. If some people have some positives on Cogliano besides the one really hard shot he fired at the net, I'd love for you to add them to the discussion. I just can't see it right now. Hall seemed to have the game an always-effective star has when he's not on full go. Hall found a way to exploit the MTL D, and drove wide all night, either beating them clean or punishing them through a little physicality and hard work. He put forth a big effort even if the stats were understated and didn't give the puck away near as much as he might have usually. I liked his effort a lot. The play he made to feed Eberle on his goal was sick. Taylor needs to remember that he's an excellent and creative playmaker who can give his teammates great chances and especially so off the rush. He's been locked in shooting mode too often. Eberle was excellent as always. Positionally brilliant. The goal an example of a guy who knows how to score and is patient as hell with the puck on his stick. If Hall (or anyone) can get him the puck in that spot, he's a goal scoring machine. I say he gets 40 next season.
- On what should have been a rather good night for these guys to do some damage (and they looked good early) they struggled some. I'm going to pin a lot of that on Penner. He was very either lazy, tired or unfocused tonight. Way too many times he was either given the puck and frittered it away, or the puck was put in a position he'd usually get it and didn't. I think this play from Penner made it look like Horcoff and Hemsky were playing worse than they actually were. A bunch of pucks that were actually solid fundamental plays wound up as turnovers. Both were far from perfect, with Hemsky having more turnover struggles and Horcoff willing but unable to convert offensively, but the main laggard was Penner. Because of the way Montreal plays, the whole group needed to be going to look good and they didn't at many times. With that said, they still come out plus and Hemsky still finds a way to score two (including an empty netter for once! YAY!). These guys should be much better Sat. I'm predicting a really good game from them. Of course, I'm no LMHF#2.
That was fun if not perfect. I love winning!