The Habs tried to rebound after last night’s disappointing effort against the Maple Leafs as they welcomed the Edmonton Oilers to the Bell Centre. The game almost didn’t happen as the Oilers were marred in COVID protocol that meant puck drop was delayed by an hour. The puck finally did drop and perhaps the Habs would have rather waited a couple of days to get themselves straightened out as they dropped yet another game, this time by an ugly 3-0 score.
The goaltending matchup on the night featured Jake Allen and Mike Smith. Coach Claude Julien opted to keep Tyler Toffoli with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher which meant Tomas Tatar joined Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi on the team’s third unit. Paul Byron also returned, taking the place of Corey Perry who was sent back to the taxi squad. This mattered little as the team continued to display an insufficient effort to be a competitive team at this level.
Edmonton came out flying as the Habs were back on their heels for the first three minutes of this game. The Canadiens then fired back with just about the only three minutes of positives that could be found this period. Jonathan Drouin started the three minutes of dominance as he jumped on a defensive zone rebound and sailed a pass to a streaking Nick Suzuki who was all alone but was stopped by Smith. Danault and Kotkaniemi’s lines then both had good aggressive shifts, but this was halted when a Suzuki dump-in hit a body and caught the Habs skating in the wrong direction. Josh Archibald came down and got around a flat-footed Joel Edmundson and then slipped a pass between Jeff Petry straight to Jujhar Khaira who one-timed it by Allen. From that point on, it was all Edmonton and it took a remarkable effort by Allen for the Habs to get out of that period only behind 1-0 as he multiplied important saves to keep the Habs in the game.
After a good shift from the fourth line to start the second period, a missed dropped pass by Gallagher sent the Oilers the other way. After a good initial save by Allen on Darnell Nurse, Shea Weber grabbed the rebound and tried to clear the front of the net. The clearing attempt hit Danault and came back to Weber who then heeled his second clearing attempt and saw the puck trickled into his own net behind Allen. The own goal had the expected effect as the Habs suddenly could not complete a pass or get organized, with even Allen suddenly feeling nervous on every shot. It was Petry that settled the team down as he delivered a heavy hip-check on Leon Draisaitl that backed the Oilers off.
The Habs had a few good shifts until a point shot from Edmundson hit Paul Byron in the side of the head which negated the momentum. The game became incredibly stale until a Ben Chiarot penalty with 7:10 to play in the period. The dangerous Edmonton power play was kept off the board and the penalty kill appeared to give the Habs some life as they finished the period in the Edmonton zone, actually getting some bodies in front of the net and creating sustained pressure offensively in doing so. The period ended without a goal, but there was finally something to build on heading into the third period.
A minute into the third, Danault interfered with Connor McDavid for the game’s second penalty. It was another good kill by the Habs and perhaps the only positive aside from Allen on this night.
Five minutes into the period, William Lagesson and Josh Anderson got into a wrestling match in front of the Edmonton net. Somehow, Anderson ended up with an extra two. This time the Edmonton man advantage converted as a point shot from Tyson Barrie had eyes and went in the net for a decisive 3-0 lead.
With 5:48 to play, Montreal got their first advantage of the night. The Habs likely could have declined the power play because it was a terrible attempt. Over-coached, slow puck movement, and completely predictable are accurate descriptions for these units. The rest of the game consisted of both teams waiting for the timer to expire as the Habs were guilty of yet another disgusting effort in this loss.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Jake Allen
Allen kept the Habs in the game longer than they deserved to be. Hard to blame a goaltender when the goals are scored by his own team to beat him. The same teammates that don’t even come close to scoring one in the opposition’s net.
Stats: 28 saves, 31 shots against, .903 save %, 3.00 GAA
2nd Star – Jonathan Drouin
The top line is now being game planned against and with the supporting cast not showing up, it takes little pressure away from this line. Despite this, they remain the small sliver of positivity on the team of late. Drouin is playing physical, making the defensive plays, and delivering sharp passes to his two linemates to create some scoring chances.
Stats: -1, 2 shots, 14:06 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Josh Anderson
Anderson’s inclusion here reads pretty much like Drouin, only Anderson tends to keep the puck and drive the net. Anderson and Drouin have been the most consistent Habs by far. They succeed when they get support from the rest of the team.
Stats: -1, 1 shot, 5 hits, 15:35 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Tyler Toffoli
Toffoli was productive with Kotkaniemi and Perry. Even when not getting on the board, they at least had scoring chances every night. All of a sudden, Armia is on the line that goes completely MIA and Toffoli finds himself moved to a line with Gallagher and the team’s offensive black hole in Danault (I really hope Danault finds his game soon). No big deal for Toffoli as he continues to get his 3-4 scoring chances per night while being near flawless away from the puck. He’s going to be streaky so it’s not going in right now, but at least the chances haven’t completely dried up for him like they have for others in the lineup.
Stats: -1, 4 shots, 1 hit, 16:58 T.O.I.