The Candiens made a trip to the surprisingly warm City of Champions tonight, and earlier in the day, the Oilers revealed their lines. Two things stood out to me — How can the team even run a second powerplay unit, and what is that third line? Ryan Strome, Milan Lucic, and Ty Rattie. That is a disaster of a line and there is no reason to expect anything of value to come out of that. A line like that might be the most expensive, useless line an NHL team could possibly come up with. On the plus side, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together always give the Oilers a good chance to outscore deployment like that. Let’s take a look at how it went.
A bit of a wild start with nothing materializing for either team. Neither looked bad, but neither looked all that good either. The teams were moving the puck either way, but no scoring chances at first.
Three minutes in, Zack Kassian had the first real chance of the game. He got the puck in the neutral zone, tried to split the defense, but was ultimately stopped before he could get a shot on net. Let’s be honest though, had Kassian scored it would have been waived off. That’s just how it goes with him.
A few seconds after that though — as in right off of the next faceoff — Matt Benning takes a pass from Connor McDavid, takes a shot, misses the net, but the puck bounced off of the end-boards, off of Antti Niemi, and in the net. 1-0 Oilers.
Canadiens’ Noah Juulsen (Who the hell is that?) gets called for hooking, and the Oilers are off to their first powerplay of the game.
The powerplay was nothing special, but as I suspected, the 2nd unit of Matt Benning, Milan Lucic, Ty Rattie, Ryan Strome, and Alex Chaisson is just as inept as I first suspected the 2nd unit would be.
As the Powerplay expires, the Oilers gave up the puck on an awful turnover, Max Domi walks in to the Oilers zone and puts a perfect shot passed Mikko Koskinen. Tie game.
At this point it’s 1-1, you would expect that the broadcast would have a little bit of sense here right? Wrong. Kevin Quinn decides to point out that the Oilers have won every game in which they’ve scored first. I’ve covered this a few times — the team who scored the most wins the game, and also is likely to have scored at whichever arbitrary event timing you can come up with — but even people who fully believe that one goal is more important than the other ones really should be able to admit that once it’s a tie game, the count restarts. Not these guys.
With three minutes left in the period, Connor McDavid makes a perfect pass to Leon Draisaitl, and he puts the puck in the back of the net. 2-1.
About a minute later, an Oilers player goes to the box for tripping. I’d like to tell you which player, but the Sportsnet broadcast insists on cutting to commercials while calls are made; And then when they come back, they show scoring chances and make no mention of who got called, or for what infraction. It’s ridiculously frustrating.
The Oilers killed the penalty and the frame end 2-1. Excellent.
It only took a minute for the Oilers to completely blow their coverage, Jonathan Drouin makes a pass to Andrew Shaw, and he beats Koskinen. It was a very ugly defensive breakdown. 2-2.
Luckily two minutes later, Drake Caggiula scores a ridiculously lucky goal. He did do a good job grabbing the puck from the air and putting it on his stick, but that’s the kind of shot that should get saved about 100% of the time.
This is the kind of thing where you don’t really notice being on the winning end of it, but there is no doubt in my mind that that completely deflated the Canadiens. Think about it, if Cam Talbot gave up something like that, our game thread would have been complete doom and gloom. Anyway, 3-2 Oilers.
Shortly thereafter, our fourth line does a great job pinning the Canadiens in their own end. Unfortunately, it would result in Kassian taking an unnecessary offensive zone penalty for interference, and arguing his way to the penalty box. It’s a damn good thing he didn’t try and be a defense attorney, I don’t think he’s ever been successful at this. Not even a plea-down. Luckily the Oilers killed that penalty quite easily.
Kenny Agostino gets called for holding just over half way through the game, and the Oilers are back on the powerplay.
The powerplay is alright, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gets a pretty good chance but Niemi made a diving save. Right before the penalty expired, Juulsen cleared the puck out of play from his own end, and the Oilers would get to extend the powerplay.
Because our 2nd powerplay unit is not a real option, Todd McLellan elects to keep the 1st unit out for the majority of the extended powerplay. This seems like the kind of time where a timeout should be used, but I can’t think of the last time he’s actually used one of those. Anyway, the powerplay was a joke, we didn’t score, but the period ends with us taking a 3-2 lead into the third.
Going to have to give the fans a big thumbs up here; As the period starts, there are noticeable Let’s Go Oilers chants. We haven’t heard a lot of that recently, so it’s good to be able to say that we show up when the team does.
Just after the two minute mark, Kenny Agostino hits the cross-bar. The offense-killing third line was out and they were doing precisely nothing on this play.
Three minutes later, however, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gets the Oilers on the board. He gets into the zone, and uses excellent shot placement to beat Niemi. 4-2 Oilers.
This was a really nice pass by Strome. I’ll give him credit for that one, despite him still being an offense killer.
At this point, the game felt pretty close to over, and the floodgates opened. First we had a goal by... yes, Kris Russell. He took a wrist shot from the point, and beat Niemi cleanly. Unfortunately the Oilers twitter feed doesn’t have a gif for this. I know you’d like video proof that Russell scored, but you’re going to just have to take my word for it.
And with 3:30 left in the game, Darnell Nurse gets in on the action.
That would seal the deal, and the Oilers win 6-2.
- The losing streak ends at 4 games. Now make no mistake, this is a very good feeling to win a game that isn’t all that close. However, that does not mean that certain people shouldn’t be fired.
- Ryan Strome had himself an assist once the game was over. It was a very nice pass to RNH, if he can keep doing that I’ll stop calling him an offense killer. In the meantime though, I still do not expect whichever winger is playing with him and Lucic to score a goal anytime soon.
- Three goals from the blueliners tonight. We needed some scoring from those guys and it’s nice to see it happening.
- It’s exceptionally fantastic when we’re not the team with goaltending that bad. The Caggiula, Benning, and Russell goals probably shouldn’t happen in an NHL game with any consistency, but I won’t complain.
- Speaking of, we all laughed at the idea of some KHL goalie with unspectacular numbers signing for 2.5M and “Pushing Talbot”, but y’know, he looks quite a bit superior right now. Although that was still too much to be paying based on the circumstances, I am not complaining about Koskinen. He is legitimately good.
- Connor McDavid had three assists and moved into the league lead in points. I doubt he’s going to relinquish that easily.
- Leon Draisaitl also had a three point night. What’s funny is he could have had about 6. He hit a post, and Niemi robbed him twice. If he’s going to be an 8.5M winger, he’ll have to keep playing like this.
- The Powerplay didn’t muster anything. That continues to be a major problem.
- Tobias Rieder left the game with an injury. If he’s not good to go, who’s the call up? It can’t be one of the two kids who hasn’t got in an AHL game yet, can it?
- Next game is Saturday in Calgary. Hopefully we can build off of this and not regress to what that lineup looks like it should be.