The Oilers won’t have much time to think about last night’s ugly loss to the @Pittsburgh Penguins as the team is back in action tonight against the @Montreal Canadiens.
1. You don’t often see the Oilers playing at 5:00 pm local time, but they will be tonight in order to accommodate the Montreal Canadiens and Hockey Night in Canada. The Oilers and Habs will be one of four Hockey Night in Canada games played at 5:00 pm Mountain Time, as the Maple Leafs, Senators, and Jets are all also in action at the same time. Having the Leafs or Habs play at 8:00 pm MT, the usual time slot the Oilers would have at home on HNIC, would cause a big stir out east.
2. With last night’s loss to the Penguins, the Oilers have now dropped seven of their ten games in December, already making it the team’s worst month so far this season. The December slide has brought them to 19-15-4, giving the team an even .500 in terms of raw wins and losses for the first time this season. It’s also put them just three points up on a playoff spot.
3. While the topic of conversation all season was how the Oilers desperately needed depth scoring, the team’s biggest issue during their recent cold snap has been keeping the puck out of the net. Dating back to November, the Oilers have allowed four or more goals in seven of their last 12 games. They’re winless in all of those games. In the three wins the Oilers have in that 12-game stretch, they haven’t allowed more than two goals.
4. Mikko Koskinen played incredibly well in Edmonton’s two-game road swing through Dallas and St. Louis, stopping 76 of the 79 shots the Stars and Blues threw his way. Last night, Mike Smith continued his struggles, allowing four goals on 25 shots. He now has a .893 save percentage on the season and hasn’t won a start in a month. It might be time for Koskinen to make a prolonged stretch of starts as Smith has been far from reliable as of late.
5. Speaking of goaltending issues, the Montreal Canadiens have a very expensive one on their hands. In just the second year of his record-breaking eight-year, $84 million deal, @Carey Price is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Through 28 games, Price has a .907 save percentage, which is his worst showing since the .900 save percentage he put up during an injury-riddled 2017-18 season.
6. Price was good last season, posting a .918 save percentage over 66 starts and earning himself some Vezina Trophy votes, but it’s hard to imagine him living up to the massive contract he signed. He turned 32 years old in August, and while many goalies have been successful into their late-30s, Price has a lot of milage on his body. When you see a goalie like Tim Thomas dominate in their late 30s, it’s usually because they’re a late bloomer. Price was already a starting goalie in the NHL at the ago of 20 and he’s had his fair share of injuries since.
7. The Habs have a .901 team save percentage, which ranks 21st in the league. The Oilers are just a slight bit better than them, with a team save percentage of .901. Price, of course, has been far from himself, and has backup Keith Kinkaid wasn’t any better. Kinkaid posted an .875 save percentage in just six games for the Habs before getting waived and sent to the AHL. @Cayden Primeau, a seventh-round pick from 2017, came up in his place and posted two strong starts before getting sent down in favour of @Charlie Lindgren. This will be a chance for Lindgren to prove himself, and if he doesn’t do well, Montreal could end up recalling Primeau and giving him a run. Regardless, the Habs need to find somebody, because Price is on pace to play nearly 70 games this year, which isn’t ideal for his long-term health.
8. Montreal’s biggest strength is their team depth. While they don’t really have a true superstar or dominant line like the Oilers and many other teams have, Montreal has a deep, balanced attack of solid forwards who can score goals. Brendan Gallagher, @Tomas Tatar, and @Joel Armia lead the way with 15, 13, and 12 goals, while six other forwards have five or more goals. Shea Weber has also been huge for the Habs from the points, as he’s fourth on the team with 11 goals. Last season, Montreal had 12 players score at least 10 goals. Barring injuries, they should hit that mark again.
9. The Habs are rolling into Edmonton currently on their best stretch of the season. After losing eight games in a row in November, Montreal has won five of their last six games and currently sits second in the Atlantic Division. They beat Vancouver and Calgary on the road and can guarantee a winning Western Canadian road trip with a win in Edmonton tonight.