Now THAT was a hockey game.
This represented the opposite of last game in many ways but especially the caring bit. These nights feel so good when you're into it. For some reason there was always a glimmer - and for once they scored right before the end of the second when they needed to and then hammered down on the accelerator the rest of the way. No nerves, maybe one bad shift the rest of the game, just GO.
I said after the first tonight that was probably the worst period they've played this season. If not it was really close to that. They had nothing out there after the first five minutes and MTL was taking the opportunity to simply run them out of the rink. It was ugly and it lay squarely with the 7 defencemen in the lineup tonight. They were horrid in the first. I'll try to focus on the last two periods when analyzing them because I don't want much negativity on a night like tonight.
The Oilers did what good teams have been doing to them for years now - looked up at the clock and said "We're down 3, but there's 40 left. Get the next one." They repeated that exercise until the game was theirs. Man that was something.
It was all the more sweet to be surrounded by the usual throng of Habs fans at Rexall while this all went down. After the first they were fat and happy - much like their team. The Habs then tried to play lock down hockey and coast on to Calgary with two points. Probably would have worked in the past. Not against McDavid. As he establishes a pattern and repeats performances like tonight the league and we as fans will learn. He just doesn't go away. You can see it in his game already - the sheer force of will that all great athletes have. Tonight he moved into fourth place in NHL scoring as an 18-year-old who started cold. He has his new best friend are on 7-game point streaks. Already. Think about that.
Unlike LA, MTL couldn't restart their engine with the McDavid train headed down the tracks. They got run over. They had barely any shots in the second half of the game and were shut down on the couple of chances they got.
The Oilers scored four unanswered against a formidable group of defenders that are backstopped by the very best goalie in the world. That's something to put on the board for the rest of the year and remember and learn from. Make no mistake - without Carey Price the Oilers could have ran up 7 or 8 goals tonight without much changing. A couple of players could have had multiple goal nights in addition to the one that actually did. It was something to see - the transition from being stuck in the mud to suddenly flying into the attacking zone with the puck or bashing into the MTL defenders and taking it away. The forwards and a couple of young dmen grabbed this game by the neck and hauled it over to their side. Frankly, the way that was done was impressive as hell. There were some truly sublime sequences. Let's talk about a couple:
Pouliot's goal was magic. It started with Nail Yakupov, improperly maligned as a "crummy board player", beating two MTL forecheckers for a loose puck and getting it to the best 18 year old hockey player I've ever seen. McDavid then reached back to grab the puck before PK Subban of all people could grab it, then flicked it around another Hab to the absolute perfect spot on the ice. Pouliot already knows his job on this line - get to the middle, be ready. He was flying into that perfect pass and made no mistake in beating Price. That play was board battle perfection.
The winner was also a beauty but in a more subtle way. Hall makes a great dump-in with Hopkins already on his horse. Hopkins gets perfect position on Desharnais and wins the puck battle. The Oilers won a ton of battles all of a sudden starting in the second, this just happened to be the one that finished the job. He then came around the net with the puck. Hall cut across with a perfect block out of the defender who could have blocked the pass. Now, Leon hadn't been on the ice at the last faceoff. Letestu had been out to take the faceoff and Draisaitl had to jump on and into the play - strong players know that this timing and angle difference can be used to their advantage. Leon went to the perfect spot and for probably the first time this evening, held the puck rather than trying to immediately whack it somewhere - he was rewarded. A perfect shot to beat price and make the fans go crazy. Great goal.
And that was that. They hung on and beat the best team in the league with the best goalie in the world after spotting them 3. Holy ****.
- Detailed their goal up above. McDavid was unstoppable in this game. When he's 23 he'll draw 2 or more holding penalties a night from dmen trying to stop his rushes with no hope. He blew by every MTL defender. He nailed a guy near the Oilers bench. He was mean sometimes, great all the time and made the type of play I suspect we'll come to know him for to set up the winner. It's just a treat watching this guy play and we're barely into his first season. Wow. Yakupov played a really solid game as well, winning several board battles, getting quality shots only to be robbed by Price, and forechecking at a high pace all night. He's seeing passing lanes really well and making his linemates better. Pouliot did exactly what he needs to do, with the added bonus of getting MTL a little riled up. Just a great game from this line.
- Well, these boys carried the mail even if it wasn't perfect. The EV icetime for this group was off the charts. I often saw Hall and wondered if there was something wrong but now I'm betting he was just bagged. He really wants things to get going offensively and I think he's actually overskating the puck more than anything. If he gears down a bit and lets the play come to him he should be fine. Great efforts on a number of shifts but some frustrating ones as well. Part of it is just that I expect a lot from him. Hopkins too had some challenges but delivered in terms of icetime and the knockout punch. I may be underestimating the job he's doing against better players this year as well. What can you really say about Leon? Talent shines through I guess. He was horrible and nervous early. He was set up for a number of chances and either made bad passes away or simply whacked at the puck. This is not his game. The PP goal was so huge for him. People will call that a lucky play - but you can see him check and see Price is exposed and a bank shot is there. Credit to Emelin for nearly saving it but that was a great choice. Delivering the dagger in the third after such a long and crazy day had to be something else. Wow.
- I'm not actually sure who played the middle for this group, but they made a contribution to tonight's game that will likely be forgotten and missed by most. In the third they provided strong, reliable minutes after McLellan shortened his bench. These guys really stepped up and moved the puck in the right direction - especially Slepyshev and Pakarinen. These are the types of guys you want as your depth players because they are talented enough to contribute, but work really hard during their limited ice time and can push just hard enough to beat good teams. They were mostly mediocre the rest of the night with Purcell being very disappointing on the powerplay, but that effort in the third should not be overlooked. I know I noticed.
- Anton Lander got benched in this one and as he should have been. His defensive blunder leading to a goal was the second in two games on plays he has to be better with. Anton's not performing to his potential right now. Letestu got caught in the bench shortening, but did his job in terms of winning faceoffs and working hard. No complaints.
A word in general about the forwards - they carried the mail and did EVERYTHING tonight. They came back and got the puck, they checked MTL in all zones, they played great in the neutral zone and generated a bunch of chances in the 2nd and 3rd. Truly this victory was theirs.
- Sucked. They got blown by like a broken down old car on the side of the road as a Ferrari comes ripping past. Ference did his usual routine of too many turnovers instead of passes, too many weak shots and too many pinches. He managed to make about 4 passes in the third which was an accomplishment, but he took so much time it is a wonder MTL didn't get him. Gryba and Fayne were just stuck in the mud more than anything. They couldn't move to keep up when the game was pushed by either MTL or EDM for that matter. I suspect Gryba will bounce back but I think Fayne might be headed out of town.
- Struggled in the first and definitely has challenges defensively. How much of this is because of his partners I don't know. He needs to stabilize his game a little bit and be stronger positionally. Once he started skating with the puck things changed. Then he fired a shot and that built some momentum. Then he got a perfect feed on a flowing play from Nurse and saw a perfect Yakupov screen. Hammered the puck into the net. Great shot. You could see he was feeling it after that. Got another good shot away and was strong the rest of the game. Very nice.
- Kind of all over the place. He too started skating the puck out and this helped immensely. MTL wasn't ready for it and didn't adjust. Many of his rushes were ultimately unsuccessful but the puck was moved away from Talbot and MTL couldn't attack. Still some weird passes and giveaways that I don't expect from a player of his calibre. Hoping he's settling in and it is a style issue rather than substance thus far.
- All over the map. I'm not even sure how to describe the game he played. Horrible coverage at times, shut down beautifully at others. Wasn't moving, then rushed the puck up ice multiple times. Couldn't pass and then got an assist and started hitting his man. His game was still below my standards for him, but this really could have spiralled out of control and he managed to get it together. Good to see him fight it out.
- Well, I don't think he's going back to California. What I saw tonight was a patient, aggressive defencemen who picked his spots all night and figured out he could drive the play forward. Then, he took flight. It is a beautiful thing to watch him fly up the ice with the puck. He also owned several Habs in the corners and used his reach effectively as well. He does so many things that the Oilers are lacking in their other blue liners. He was not perfect, but man have we been missing a player like this for a long time. I would like to know who has been getting his game focused - it is a beautiful thing.
I think the adjustment that changed the complexion of this game was that the D started skating with the puck - specifically these last 4. MTL had no answer for it, as the forwards were attacking at speed. That top 6 in flight is a nightmare. The challenge has been the D so far. Chiarelli needed to watch this game closely. It is time to make a move to support your elite young forwards. They will set the world on fire with 2 more D that can move the puck.
- Good enough. Could have maybe made one more stop, but didn't need to in the end. Great when tested a couple times in the third. You can see the team is comfortable with him back there and he just doesn't get rattled. That's everything for a goalie. Many guys would have been shaking wondering if the hook was coming. Not Talbot.
That was awesome. You live for nights like that as a fan. There's something here guys. Time to seize the opportunity.