The Canadiens haven’t played hockey in a long time (by NHL standards) so the biggest concern coming into their two game weekend was how up to speed the team would be after their in-season vacation.
The answer simply was that they seemed fully up to speed. Jesperi Kotkaniemi got the scoring started early, and Phillip Danault added a second goal to continue their strong play. Even with a highly disappointing end result, the Canadiens were far and away the better team on the Bell Centre ice on Saturday. Hockey however is, as Daniel Bryan likes to say, “fickle” and being the better team isn’t a guarantee of a win.
Montreal would win most games playing like they did on Saturday and need to go out Sunday with the same mindset against a dismal Edmonton Oilers team. They were very good at even strength, and against a team like the Oilers an effort like that will give them a good chance of success.
The chart above shows just how lopsided the flow of play was in the game, and unlike the Habs loss to Philadelphia where the team took their foot off the gas, the Canadiens never relented in this game. Max Domi and Jeff Petry rang shots off the post, and MacKenzie Blackwood stymied Joel Armia several times. Sometimes bad luck happens, but that doesn’t mean things should change against the Oilers.
Let Jesperi Kotkaniemi continue to be a trigger man on the power play. His willingness to fire pucks on the net is a breath of fresh air on a stagnant man advantage. It’s a crummy way to start after the All-Star break, but the Canadiens had more positives in the overtime loss than negatives, and that should carry them over to Sunday’s showdown with the Oilers.