It started out really well, with the Canadiens generating chances and dominating on the shot clock. Andrei Markov's pass to Tomas Plekanec for the opening goal was a thing of beauty, and Brendan Gallagher's pass interception that he turned into a goal was a highlight of the year candidate.
Then, Dallas Eakins gathered himself and realized what he must do. He told his bench a tale that would unite even the shittiest of teams. He told them that after complimenting them twice, Lars Eller noted in a pregame interview that Edmonton at times plays like.... A junior team.
Dun. Dun. DUN!!!!!!!
Or, that's actually bullshit narrative and not at all what happened. The Oilers benefited from sloppy defensive play by the Canadiens while they were sitting on their 2 goal lead, along with some pretty absurd non-calls, two of which lead to Oilers goals.
That's right, when you play really bad, the other team scores on you. I think I remember a coach saying something like that when I was a kid, it seems to be right.
It started with Ales Hemsky giving Galchenyuk a taste of his own medicine, embarrassing him with a deke that had him end up with his back to the play and Hemsky alone in the slot, where he made no mistake in beating Carey Price with a great shot.
Then Ladislav Smid made a smart pinch after seeing a gap in the Canadiens' coverage and turned a normally safe rebound from Price into a goal on an empty cage.
The bleeding didn't stop in the third period as the Habs gave up two brutal goals on odd man rushes to Jeff Petry (who's really good), and Ryan Jones (who's really not). The second goal was the first goal that's gone in on Price this season that he can really be criticized for, but if you're on him after this game you kind of missed the point.
I mentioned after the last game that Therrien has struggled to adapt to life without Max Pacioretty, and that continued last night. It was most apparent in the third period when only P.K. Subban seemed willing to skate the puck into the Oilers' zone. Every attempted zone entry was a dump in, and half the time Montreal didn't seem to know who's job it was to go get it.
Edmonton's defensive group is awful, but they're mobile. Dumping it in is not a good strategy against that team. Against the Flyers it works because they're so old and slow that even David Desharnais can win a puck battle. But if you're not getting to the puck first when a team is defending a lead, you're not going to generate anything with dump ins.
But as with all losses with the Montreal Canadiens, the overreaction to this one has been embarrassing for an perpetually overreactive fanbase.
There were positives to be gleaned, like Michael Bournival playing top line minutes and not struggling, in fact he's on a 3 game point streak. The young rookie has been outstanding in limited minutes, playing a career high 12:31 last night. The young Shawinigan native now leads all Habs players in possession with an extremely impressive 67.2% Fenwick percentage, and remains third on the team in individual shots generated per minute played.
Nathan Beaulieu got limited ice time in the game, and he was sheltered as much as possible, but he was very good in his own zone last night. While Francis Bouillon has been struggling, and got himself into danger a lot last night, Beaulieu wasn't on the ice for a single scoring chance against. He used his size along the boards and his intelligence with the puck to diffuse plays. He wasn't trying to do too much, which is a step forward for him.
Patrick Holland looked good in the first period, and even made a couple smart plays on the PK, but as the game wore on looked a bit lost. Off of faceoffs he and Michael Blunden lost their checks three times in the third period, leading to at least one excellent scoring chance against.
The problems that are there are the same ones the Canadiens have been dealing with all season. Desharnais finally looked closer to himself in the offensive zone on a couple of plays, taking advantage of good board work and turnovers created by Rene Bourque and Travis Moen, but for every great play Desharnais makes this season, there are five where you just shake your head and wonder what on earth he's thinking.
It was a poor effort and an ugly game to watch, but the Canadiens have still not suffered a single multi-goal loss. In fact, they're 1-4-0 in one goal games, something that won't last over a full season.
And don't forget to check out the reaction from the winning side at The Copper & Blue, which is a truly fantastic analytical blog.
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Greg Pateryn gets the call up from Hamilton
- Ears on the Prize - Episode 7 - Podcast
- Retour sur le match Canadiens vs Oilers
- Jarred Tinordi assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs
- Bulldogs complete an epic comeback to ice Rockford in overtime