How to watch
After the opening game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs that the Montreal Canadiens lost 5-4 in overtime, any worries about how the new players would help the offence seemed to be answered. Instead, the only concern was how quickly the defence could tighten up after some difficult shifts.
The Edmonton Oilers would be another good test for that defence, but it was hard to get a proper read with how well Carey Price was playing in net. Despite facing 33 scoring chances on the night (the team averaged 25 against per game a year ago), Price only allowed one puck to get past him. It was a performance reminiscent of some of his best international play, racing into good position to give opponents little net to shoot at.
It’s also true that the defence didn’t need to be airtight, because the offence was clicking right from the start, and the game was effectively over midway through the second period.
Tale of the Tape
|47.2% (23rd)||Corsi-for pct.||46.4% (26th)|
|4.50 (4th)||Goals per game||3.00 (14th)|
|3.00 (14th)||Goals against per game||4.00 (22nd)|
|60.0% (1st)||PP%||18.2% (14th)|
|71.4% (20th)||PK%||88.9% (12th)|
It may take a bit of getting used to having the Habs capitalize on so many of their chances. For the past few years they’d often been all over opponents but lacked the ability to put them away. Now with any of four lines capable of carrying the offensive load, these four- and five-goal outings could become commonplace, especially versus a group of clubs not exactly know for their lockdown abilities.
On Saturday, two goals from new breakaway specialist Tomas Tatar, another two from very early Norris Trophy candidate Jeff Petry, and a pleasantly surprising short-handed goal from Jake Evans proved more than enough offence in a 5-1 win. This after a power-play goal from Nick Suzuki and the first two-goal game of the year from Josh Anderson in the opening contest. The only members of the forward corps who haven’t gotten involved in the scoring are those on the third line consisting of Joel Armia, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Tyler Toffoli, and they were at the top of list for expected goals for on Saturday, hinting that their breakout is also imminent.
The Oilers are obviously no slouches when it comes to offence; Connor McDavid does have a hat trick already this season, and that’s only good enough to tie him for the team lead in points with Leon Draisaitl. The dynamic duo was limited to just one secondary assist in the first game, but that shouldn’t be expected in the second.
The biggest question for tonight’s game is which of Montreal’s goalies those offensive stars will be trying to score against. Jake Allen’s acquisition was made to ensure Price wouldn’t get overworked this season, and the starter did expend a lot of energy on Saturday. There’s also a back-to-back on the schedule for Wednesday and Thursday this week, and Allen will undoubtedly get one of those games as it is. Perhaps that will be seen as enough rest for Price in the early going? Or will the brass fully commit to more of a tandem and give Price just four of the first six games rather than five? Claude Julien isn’t divulging his plan for the netminders just yet.
Dave Tippett doesn’t have the luxury of choice. For whatever reason, the Oilers decided to start the new season with the same tandem that allowed 16 goals through four games of the qualification round, a series that prevented the second seed in the Pacific Division from even making the playoffs, despite 15 goals of its own. Now, the team is without Mike Smith, and has its third-string goalie, Anton Forsberg, bouncing around the continent on a string of waiver moves. It’s entirely possible that we will learn at noon today that the club has made a claim of its own to add Aaron Dell off the waiver wire from the Maple Leafs, but that move is not going to help them for a few days, and definitely not tonight.
It will probably be up to Mikko Koskinen to try to find some of the laser focus Price displayed at the opposite end of the ice last game. As has been the case since McDavid joined the franchise, Edmonton’s only hope will be to finish on top when the offensive barrage is called to a halt.