Welcome, dearest Internet friends, to what can only be described as a very exciting Saturday morning here at the Nation as our beloved Edmonton Oilers get set to take on the Montreal Canadiens for the first time this season. First Saturday night game of the year? Yes, please.
I know we’re only two games into the all-Canadian sensation that is the 2021 COVID campaign, but I have to say that I’m already a huge fan of what I’m seeing around the division. The foundation for future chippiness and all-out loathing is being laid all over the North Division as teams get into the routine of playing each other over and over again, and I’m looking forward to that same groundwork being laid here in the Oilers’ first matchup of the season against the Montreal Canadiens. In a normal year, these two teams only play each other a few times — the Oilers went 2-2-0 against the Habs in 2019-20 — so there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to build a history of animosity, but with nine games on the schedule and all of them important, I assume it won’t take all that long for the distaste to grow and I’m excited to see how things escalate.
Looking ahead at tonight’s game, the Canadiens haven’t played since Wednesday in their opener against the Leafs, and I’m hoping that gives the Oilers even the smallest of advantages since they have an extra at-bat under their belts. On Thursday, the Oilers were fired up and dialled in and it was incredibly fun to watch them dismantle the Canucks, which was a stark contrast from the mistake-riddled affair from night one, and it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out which team we need to show up again if we want to celebrate another win. It’s a small dream, but it’s a good one nevertheless. Anyway… Without a preseason to shake off the rust and settle into their systems, I still don’t know whether to expect some high flying pond hockey or a low-scoring grind, and since both sides are still working out the kinks, it would be great if it was our boys that were pushing the pace and forcing Montreal into some pre-season-like mistakes that sink their ship. Too much to ask? I don’t think so.
Let’s get to the numbers…
|LAST 10 GAMES||1-1-0||0-0-1|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||51.18||50.06|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Jack Michaels just tweeted out the lineups:
After Wednesday’s win, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of roster moves for tonight’s game other than maybe Ennis drawing back in for Devin Shore seeing as Mike Smith will be out for the foreseeable future. I mean, there’s no point in trying to fix something that ain’t broken, right? According to CHED’s Reid Wilkins, Jujhar Khaira will come out of the lineup tonight, moving Devin Shore to centre on that fourth line, which paves the way for Joakim Nygard to make his season debut. Reid also tweeted that Ennis will be available tonight, but didn’t mention where he’ll be slotted in. At the time of posting, nothing has been confirmed yet in terms of the pairings and trios, but I’ll be sure to jump back in and update the post when news comes out.
With Koskinen being the default starter for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be fascinating to how this Tony Grosenick claim works out or if he even plays at all. I mean, I can’t imagine that Dave Tippett was all that comfortable having Stuart Skinner backing Kostco up considering he was the 4th goaltender on the depth chart about a week ago.
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Suzuki – Anderson
Toffoli – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Lehkonen – Evans – Byron
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Kulak – Romanov
I watched the Habs’ season opener against the Leafs and the Oilers are going to have to be wary on the defensive side of the puck to prevent their finishers from getting clean looks on net.
Petry on facing McDavid after watching him score a hat trick: “The majority of us have played him before (also have to be wary of Draisaitl)… Important to limit turnovers and avoid putting the puck in his hands. He’s a guy that likes to wind it up. If he is going to get it, it has to be in their end to make him go 200 feet.”
Want an interesting stat? Carey Price’s career stats versus the Oilers are horrible: 3-9-1 with a 3.65 GAA and a .861 save%.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The second line of Jonathan Drouin, Nick Suzuki and Josh Anderson is going to be a treat to watch throughout the season. The instant chemistry from training camp has clearly carried over. Anderson demonstrated both his speed and 2018-19 scoring touch that should make the line one of the most offensive of the Canadiens lineup should he stay healthy.
On the blue line, if you had to do a double take whenever Alexander Romanov was on the ice, you weren’t alone. The 21-year old rookie was one of the better defensemen on the blue line against the Maple Leafs with smart offensive and breakout passes and an assist that nabbed him his first career point on Tatar’s goal. Likewise, Romanov only played the body when it would not be detrimental to his positioning.
One issue from the 2019-20 regular season may have carried over. In the second period, the Montreal Canadiens were controlling the momentum up until two penalties that could have been easily avoided; however, we will cut Weber’s penalty some slack as the delay penalty was questionable. Regardless, both calls inevitably led to the Leafs finding their game. Staying disciplined against high scoring teams in the North Division will be key moving forward.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: After a little bit of a slow start, the Oilers settle things down and take over the final 40 minutes, closing the game out with a 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor McDavid splits the Habs’ defence, scoring a highlight-reel goal that sends the Nation into a frenzy and wins me my McPoints prop bet.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite the fact that there are no fans in the building, Bob Nicholson wanders the halls of Rogers Place, encouraging the Canadiens to try the Bobby Nicks burger. While there is some interest in the burger, the players become annoyed when they find out that fries cost extra.
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