That’s a hell of a road game, boys! Final Score: 3-0 Oilers
As much as I liked to see the Oilers pick up four straight wins against the Ottawa Senators, I was really looking forward to seeing how the boys matched up against the Montreal Canadiens in their second series of the season. In round one, the boys got outplayed and outscored quite handily (8-2) over two games and tonight’s series opener was going to be a huge test to see where they’re really at as a team. Are they a team that can hang with the best in the division or are they one that can only beat the bottom feeders? More importantly, as the day wore on, I was wondering whether or not we’d even be watching hockey after news broke that the game was being pushed back by an hour and that Jesse Puljujarvi was placed on the NHL’s COVID list. This was the first time we’ve experienced players getting pulled out of the lineup on game day and I was eager to see how things would play out. Needless to say, it’s been emotional out here.
Despite the delayed start and last-minute roster changes, the game finally got underway and the Oilers hit the ice with plenty of pace and energy. From top to bottom, all four lines did a decent job of manufacturing early pressure that gave Montreal fits and had it not been for some fine work by Jake Allen, the Oilers would have ended the opening period with more than a one-goal lead. Even so, maybe those foiled first-period chances manifested into some good luck or something because the Oilers were able to extend that lead to two goals early in the second period with a little help from Weber who scored on his own net. With some Webersurance up on the board, the Oilers did a good job of balancing their own attack while also limiting Montreal’s ability to get to the inside of the ice. Many of the shots the Habs threw Smith’s way came from the perimeter and even when they did make it to the net, I thought the defence did a good job of boxing out second chances and eliminating rebounds.
Up by two goals with only 20 minutes left to play, the Oilers didn’t need to make any changes but rather to keep rolling with their gameplan until the final buzzer sounded. My concern, however, is that the boys would revert to their tendency of sitting back on a lead and trying to ride the game out, which may work against the Senators of the world but is much less likely to fly against a team like Montreal. Thankfully, my fears of them falling back into some kind of prevent defence were unjustified as the Oilers kept pushing forward through the final frame, eventually tacking on a third goal and exercising the killer instinct that we’ve all been asking them for. Honestly, it was fun to watch them execute in all three zones at this level. At the end of the day, this was easily the Oilers’ best road game of the season and it was fantastic to see them get so much done offensively while also stifling Montreal’s ability to do much of anything. I know the haters will still find things to complain about, but I think this is a win we should all be satisfied with.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Jujhar Khaira continued his hot streak with another big goal (1-0) on a beautiful shot after he was the business end of a beautiful passing play that moved the puck up ice, dissected the Canadiens’ defensive zone, and left Allen helpless between the pipes. I don’t know what’s gotten into Khaira since he was reinserted back into the lineup but I hope this heater never ends.
- Darnell Nurse got credit for his 5th goal in his last six games after Shea Weber banged a Nurse rebound off of his own player that was standing in front of him, off his own stick for a second time, and past Allen into his own net. Nurse is so hot right now that he doesn’t even need to shoot the puck to get goals.
- Tyson Barrie extended the lead to three goals (3-0) on the powerplay with a big blast from the point that made its way through traffic and beat Allen high to the blocker side. It’s been a long time since the Oilers have had a guy that can tee off on a one-timer quite like Barrie and it adds a different element to a powerplay that can certainly use some variety.
- Mike Smith was very good in his first start and win over the Ottawa Senators and he was even better, in my opinion, against the Habs. I was expecting a tougher evening for the veteran netminder in Montreal but he handled the added pressure perfectly. From start to finish, Smith was as steady as you could hope your starter to be and he was rewarded for his efforts with a 38-save shutout.
- I know it sounds weird to say sometimes, but I honestly felt like Connor McDavid could have had three or four more points had he gotten even a fraction of the luck Darnell Nurse is rolling with these days. McDavid was flying all night long and there were a couple of times when he looked like he was going to add another highlight-reel goal to his resume and I’m choosing to denounce the Canadiens for being poor hosts and not allowing it to happen.
- I’m a BIG fan of the Khaira-Ennis-Archibald line. For the past couple of nights, this trio has been able to hold their own and it’s giving me hope that we may actually get some consistent depth minutes for once.
- The penalty kill was perfect over the two wins against Ottawa and I felt like we were going to need the boys to come up big again tonight if they were going to seal the deal. While they were only tested once, the boys killed that penalty effectively to extend their perfect run to three games.
- The Oilers’ powerplay has gone cold over the last few games and it was nice to see them get one tonight in the third period. I know it’s been great to get some depth scoring and that’s the reason they won again, but they’re a different team when the powerplay is struggling so to have them get off the snide was incredibly important.
- With Nurse and Barrie both scoring, the Oilers now have 16 goals from their defencemen in only 16 games played. To put that in perspective, the team had 22 total goals from their back end in 71 games in 2019-20.
- You better believe I love the 55% win percentage in the faceoff circle.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Oilers got outshot 38-31 but I still maintain that a bunch of those shots came from the outside.
- Sometimes I forget that Kyle Turris is an Oiler. Probably not a good thing.
- Did anyone else see the second or two in the first period where Tyson Barrie stopped moving completely? I know he probably thought the play was offside but without a whistle to actually halt the action, he looked like his controller was temporarily disconnected.
- Why is it that the Oilers seem to give up at least one breakaway against every night? Why does this keep happening?
- It was tough to read the news this afternoon that the game was not only being pushed back by an hour but that Jesse Puljujarvi had been placed under COVID protocol. Over the last couple of weeks, I thought Puljujarvi’s game was really starting to turn a corner and I hope that this time on the shelf doesn’t throw too big of a wrench into his game. I can’t help but feel bad for the kid.
- Speaking of which, I guess we’ll see what happens with Mikko Koskinen as well since he was also held out as a precaution.
This is a very specific daydream
— Onion on My Belt (@arrrdeecee) February 12, 2021
BREAKING: Jesse Puljujarvi is in good spirits as he cheers on his teammates tonight from his hotel room pic.twitter.com/ve2EoVLIAa
— Adam (@OilersAdam) February 12, 2021
— Lucas🇨🇦Johnson (@McCanada2112) February 12, 2021
Every time Smith goes up the middle I pucker a little.
— TheTowelBoy (@TheTowelBoy) February 12, 2021
The only person to score on Mike Smith this season is Adam Larsson. @OilersNation
— Anthony Flynn (@anthonyjflynn) February 12, 2021
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