Losing a one sided game to put an end to the season opening nine game winning streak apparently wasn’t enough to convince the Canadiens that they are not the best thing to hit the NHL since the teal coloured jerseys of the San Jose Sharks. No, they needed a bigger wake up call than a mere loss in Vancouver, which highlighted the old law of averages (follow the bouncing puck) playing catch up against them.
The Habs were focused and on message for the follow up in Edmonton. For about 25 minutes. Then, perhaps thinking about the second half of the Alberta doubleheader, they hit cruise control. And the young Oilers zoomed past them, making Montreal look old and tired by comparison. Even the league’s best goalie couldn’t keep them from crashing.
Championship teams not only “play the right way” but possess a killer instinct. As impressive as 9-2 might be they still have some growing up to do.
- Torrey Mitchell now has 5 goals. Or as many as Alex Galchenyuk, Alex Semin and Lars Eller combined.
- Galchenyuk. First goal since opening night in Toronto. Memorable moment as he led a rush through the neutral zone. While lugging the puck through the centre of the ice, Galchenyuk used his considerable strength to dish a backhand pass halfway across the rink to the left side of the Edmonton blue line, hitting Andrei Markov perfectly in stride. He’s a centreman alright.
- Andrei Markov. His cross ice pass to set up Galchenyuk’s goal was also a beauty. Capped off a smart play started by Brian Flynn.
- Brendan Gallagher. No surprise to see him play so well back home. Seems to have developed a knack for deflections like we haven’t seen from a Montreal forward since the heady days of Steve Shutt and Yvon Lambert.
- Power Play. Clicked again and for the 4th straight game it was a P.K. Subban perfectly placed low wrist shot from the point that led to a goal. Subban has figured it out. The big wind up slapper might look great but only when it actually works, which isn’t nearly often enough.
- Paul Byron. Now we know he actually plays for the Habs. Pierre McGuire called it a “dress rehearsal” for his return to Calgary. Look for a more involved Byron against his former team.
- Connor McDavid. “He’s a dynamic player. He’s going to be an excellent addition to this league. He’s exciting to watch. His talent is really…outstanding. I’m really happy for the Oilers fans that they’re going to be able to watch that for the next 15, 20 years”. High praise after the game from the NHL’s reigning MVP.
- David Desharnais. Ugh. An embarrassing lost puck battle to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins behind the Montreal net in the final minute was inexcusable. But Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers will take it. The Desharnais trio was nowhere most of the night.
- Tomas Fleischmann. His high sticking penalty behind the Edmonton net late in the second period opened the door to the Edmonton comeback. Fleischamnn has already taken five minor penalties in 11 games, far too many for a winger who doesn’t play a heavy game.
- Dale Weise. The only member of the line who hit the net (3 SOG) but he couldn’t bury an easy chance from in close midway through the third period which would have made the score 4-2. Weise was skating well – he was actually moved up to play alongside Galchenyuk for a couple of shifts – but his play in his own end was as poor as his teammates.
- Jeff Petry & Alexei Emelin. Not exactly the homecoming Petry was counting on and Emelin’s whiff in the corner of the rink against McDavid led to Edmonton’s second goal early in the third.
- Lars Eller. Maybe he was spooked by the presence of Eric Gryba.
- Carey Price. Entered the game 1-5-1 .857 lifetime against the Oilers. It’s even worse in Edmonton where he’s now 0-4-4.29-.830. Was badly off his angle on the game tying goal by Benoit Pouliot and on his knees too soon to readjust his positioning on the game winner.
- Michel Therrien. I wouldn’t have scratched Alex Semin, not yet anyway. But everybody knows why he did. And after watching the Oilers over the final 40 minutes Therrien could probably make the case that if Semin had played he might have needed an emergency IV midway through the third period (“He’s not quick enough” Ray Ferraro told us). Therrien had his team refocused and ready to go – without Semin. But they didn’t get it done. As mentioned, it was fairly obvious the Desharnais line was struggling. But he kept throwing them out there. And got burned. With Byron presumably set to make a stronger statement in Calgary, how long does the coach make Semin sit and stew? More importantly, how much longer does he sit 7th and 8th defensemen Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi before throwing them to the wolves?
- Max Pacioretty & P.K. Subban. Early in the second period with the Habs already up by three goals Pacioretty carried the puck into the Edmonton zone with a streaking Subban ready to take a lead pass which would have sent him in with plenty of time and space to make it 4-0. But Pacioretty either didn’t see Subban or didn’t hear him (hard to do with Subban slapping his stick on the ice) and chose to carry the puck in himself which put Subban offside. The Habs all-star defenseman was clearly not happy as the TV camera caught him muttering something to do with “pass the puck!” It was probably just a fleeting moment involving two highly competitive teammates (later in the period after Pacioretty failed to connect from in close but drew a penalty on Gryba he dropped a loud, impressive F-bomb) but it didn’t look good. Neither did Subban’s neutral zone effort against McDavid which helped send Pouliot in alone to tie the game.