A day after facing one of the NHL’s best teams in the Washington Capitals, the Montreal Canadiens will face another challenge on Sunday afternoon. For the second year in a row as part of their back-to-back matinées on Super Bowl weekend, the Habs will welcome the Edmonton Oilers to the Bell Centre.
Last year’s Oilers were basement-dwellers, on their way to the draft lottery and with their best player just getting his legs under him following a long absence due to injury.
This year, with Connor McDavid leading the league in scoring, the NHL’s north-westernmost team is looking forward to the playoffs instead.
How to watch
Puck drop: 1:00 PM EST / 10:00 AM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English), RDS (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.93||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||50.99|
|1.31||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.09|
*Statistics do not include Saturday’s games.
The Oilers prospects revolve around their top line’s play, and as one might of expect of a line which features a top-three player in the league, it’s been absurdly dominant. McDavid, Patrick Maroon, and Leon Draisaitl have held over 55% of the shot attempts during their time on ice, and their expected goals-for percentage (xGF%) approaches 60%. Maroon, who had never scored more than 11 goals in an NHL season before this one, has 18 tallies. Draisaitl, meanwhile, has already hit 20.
During their recent struggles in general and yesterday specifically, the Habs’ defence has looked vulnerable in transition. If gaps aren’t kept tight, McDavid will turn plays in on the Canadiens’ goal faster than any player who has victimized them recently.
After the top line, the Oilers’ next greatest offensive threat is probably Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The second-line pivot is extremely capable at even strength, maintaining good possession numbers and scoring at a reasonable clip as well. Nugent-Hopkins has recently been charged with reviving two players the Oilers should be able to count on for offensive production. It’s proven to be a difficult project.
Jordan Eberle has been a mainstay on the Oilers offence for some time, but is running cold lately. Outside of a two-goal, two-assist effort against the Calgary Flames, Eberle has mustered just three points in his last 14 games. Meanwhile, the $42 million man is struggling on a whole other level.
It has now been 25 games since Milan Lucic last scored an even-strength goal.— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) February 3, 2017
He has three assists at evens over that span.
With one-third of their top-six forwards not consistently producing, and a defensive corps not particularly prone to offensive outbursts, the Oilers offence may be largely one-dimensional. Of course, fans of the Canadiens can relate.
The Habs have been completely reliant on Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty for goals of late, and while they’ll need their big guns to keep producing through the stretch run, they need their secondary options to pick up the pace.
Their second-leading goal-scorer, Paul Byron, who has 14 on the year, has just one goal in his last eight games. The third-place scorer is Shea Weber, and he has just two in his last 14 contests. Perhaps most importantly, Alex Galchenyuk hasn’t been quite himself since his return from injury. Galchenyuk belongs with Radulov and Pacioretty atop the team’s list of offensive weapons, and the Habs would love for him to build on the chances he registered in the third period against the Capitals.
Last year’s Habs, pitifully as they were playing at the time, disposed of last year’s Oilers with ease. This year, if the Habs’ depth can outmuscle Edmonton’s, they should be in line for another positive result.