Montreal Canadiens vs. Edmonton Oilers
How to watch
Start time: **12:30 PM EST / 9:30 AM PST**
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Oilers region: Sportsnet West
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS Direct, Sportsnet Now, TSN+
The linesmen gathered around a tablet, watching slow-motion replays of a blue-line entry. They discussed what they believed they were seeing in the frame-by-frame record of Mike Hoffman’s kick of the puck over the line before he got it to his stick. Minutes later, they gave their verdict to the referee, who delivered their findings to the Bell Centre crowd. The goal would stand. The curse of the Reverse Retro jerseys was broken in the eighth try of the 2022-23 season. The reward is never having to wear them again.
As it often has in this section of the season, the main character in getting the Habs right into the heart of the action after 10 days away was Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. He set up the opening goal for Nick Suzuki, and very nearly had another primary assist moments later when Josh Anderson missed an open look. On this day, the Canadiens had several other players contributing to the offensive game to get themselves a point from a 3-3 tie after regulation, with one final marker from Mike Matheson as he followed up that heavily scrutinized penalty-box-exit breakaway from Hoffman to score on the rebound.
Montreal knocked off one of the teams that has made a big move already this winter before the trade deadline arrives. That player, Bo Horvat, did score a goal for his team in the game, but that wasn’t enough to get them a victory. For the second half of the Super Bowl back-to-back, the Canadiens take on a team still hoping to make a big move to set themselves up for the playoffs.
Tale of the Tape
|44.1% (29th)||Scoring-chances-for %||52.0% (11th)|
|2.58 (29th)||Goals per game||3.75 (1st)|
|3.69 (28th)||Goals against per game||3.15 (19th)|
|15.4% (32nd)||PP%||31.5% (1st)|
|72.5% (30th)||PK%||76.1% (22nd)|
The Edmonton Oilers had been linked to Jakob Chychrun in that saga of the Arizona Coyotes wanting to trade him for future assets but not liking the packages they’ve been offered (the Coyotes are currently fielding one from the Los Angeles Kings). Joel Edmundson was mentioned as a target for Ken Holland as well, though an unknown injury has put the Habs defenceman’s situation in limbo. Now the report is that Edmonton is talking to the San Jose Sharks about adding Erik Karlsson, the league’s top-scoring defenceman this season, to their already prolific offence. They would hold three of the top six point-getters in the NHL if that trade does happen.
Holland’s plan seems to be to just overwhelm opponents offensively and not worry about any defensive issues. That strategy has panned out well enough as his slightly-below-average defensive team has a 30-18-5 record, but the regular season hasn’t been the issue for Edmonton, but rather early post-season exits.
Goals Saved Above Expected Leaders - February 11 pic.twitter.com/7zfUj2n3B6— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 11, 2023
One improvement has come in goal. Stuart Skinner was supposed to be just a backup to Jack Campbell, who signed a five-year deal with the Oilers that started this year, but Skinner has just returned to the team following an appearance at the All-Star Game after a strong start to his rookie campaign. Skinner is keeping opponents to under three goals per game, and when you consider that Connor McDavid helps the team score about two per night (he has 97 points in 53 games, with nearly a 20-point lead over teammate Leon Draisaitl in the Art Ross race), that performance should be enough for Edmonton to win the vast majority of games. Whether the netminder can maintain that play through his first NHL post-season — and whether his coach trusts a 24-year-old with those starts — is another matter.
You see Samuel Montembeault making a cameo in the list above, as his play is showing up in such metrics that take the quality of the shots faced into account. He earned his 11th win of the season yesterday to move above a personal .500 record, and now hands the crease over to his partner for the back-to-back.
The defence corps that will play in front of Jake Allen seems to have made a conscious effort to embrace the same philosophy Edmonton employs. There were many instances of defencemen joining the offensive attack yesterday, led by Johnny Kovacevic in the opening period, and Justin Barron joining Matheson on the scoresheet in the game. That’s two goals from the blue line after the Canadiens only had 12 in total from the back end in the first 51 games of the year, five of them from Arber Xhekaj alone.
Perhaps Jordan Harris signing his first standard player contract with the team jolted a group of young defencemen who want to ensure they are in the future plans for the team as well. Barron and Kovacevic are already under contract for next season, but there are a few blue-liners coming up through the system, and these lower spots will have some competition.
Whatever the reason, the increased involvement from the defencemen is one way to help the team stay within reach of their opponents while it deals with significant injuries among the forward group. There aren’t many goal-scorers in the lineup, so the blue-liners creating some passing lanes and showing themselves to be options to shoot will help generate more dangerous chances. A run-and-gun, back-and-forth match between two teams solely concerned about offence would make for an entertaining afternoon.