The Edmonton Oilers continued to roll with their fourth consecutive win in dominating fashion, defeating the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 7-2. The Oilers came in powered up with the much-anticipated debut of Evander Kane, but they gained more ground in the Pacific Division where they have played a lot fewer games than most of the teams above them.
The Canadiens of course aren’t a good team this season after having their way with the Oilers last year, but the Oilers needed the two points against them all the same.
It may look great from the outside only seeing the score, but there were a few things that may not have flew in a game vs a competitive team, including lack of shots and inability to really stay in the game with the lead. It doesn’t matter the score, everybody should continue to put the effort forward and play the game like it’s tied. There wasn’t necessarily a lack of effort, but with no fans in the building and a big lead, it looked like the game slowed down.
Evander Kane’s Debut was Solid but Room for Improvement
last night was the highly anticipated debut for the Oilers by Kane. He was slotted in on the top line on the left wing beside Connor McDavid. Kane hasn’t played a game since mid-December, only getting into five games of action in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season with the San Jose Barracuda. This was his first NHL action since last season with the San Jose Sharks when he led the team in goals and points.
He looked a bit slow, but it will take time to get his conditioning back. Nevertheless, he was the most physical Oiler, dishing out four hits, double the next closest player on the team. Along with scoring his first goal with his new team just 11:21 into the game, Kane used his big body to disrupt the Canadiens’ defenders. I noticed as well as hitting the opponents, he also utilized his stick simultaneously to cause chaos and take away any control the Canadiens would attempt to get.
With more time on the team and time to practice, he should get up to speed and start to form chemistry with his new linemates. It doesn’t look like the lines will be changing after this dominating outing by the Oilers, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Kane has already been chatting on the bench with McDavid after shifts going over what happened on the ice and starting to learn each other’s style. Once Kane starts to shoot and crash the net more, he will become more dangerous.
Defensively, Kane was strong on pucks and keeping pressure on the opponents, but he needs to learn the system for breaking out how the rest of the wingers generally do it. That would be settling the puck quickly when it comes to them and then getting it to the swinging centre with speed. Many times, Kane just flipped the puck out. That’s not the worst option, but the Oilers are dominant if they can control the play in the offensive zone and less so when the puck is in their end. Controlling the puck and getting it to the centreman, in this case McDavid, will create tons more offensive opportunities. All in all, not a bad game by him.
Three-Headed Monster at Centre Worked Great For Oilers
It was the first time we’ve seen the so-called three-headed monster at centre of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all centering a line. With the forward depth they now have, this was an easy decision to spread out the scoring and really give the team scoring from everywhere.
Each line scored, but we are going to look at the top-nine in particular for the moment. In the first period to break open the game, the Oilers scored three goals in quick succession at even strength.
As you can see above, three shifts in a row each of the top three lines scored. The Oilers scored seven goals, none of which came on the power play. The goal was to get deeper at forward, and in short order, it seems like that has been accomplished. Of course they will have to see how it works out for more than a one-game trial that they’ve had, but it’s off to a good start.
The first line combined for one goal and two points, the second combined for two goals and four points, while the third line was the most dominant, recording three goals and six points. It’s one thing to play Nugent-Hopkins on the third line, but it’s another to give him Zach Hyman as a winger (“Zach Hyman proving his versatility with Edmonton Oilers early on”, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 8, 2021). These two have amazing chemistry in such a short amount of time. They have hardly gotten any five-on-five time together but have been deployed alongside one another on the penalty kill every chance Dave Tippett gets. They have created offensive chances while shorthanded, so giving them an extra player on their side at even strength was only bound to make things better.
Oilers’ Fourth Line Stepped Up
Not to be overshadowed by the top-nine, the fourth line played a great game for the Oilers. It helps that it was a very lopsided game so that Tippett could roll the lines, but there was no forward who played under 11:45 of ice time in the game. Rolling the lines early and getting everyone in the game was huge, despite not getting on the board until past the halfway mark in the first period.
Early in the game, two shifts by the fourth line were controlled and in the Canadiens’ end creating chances and wearing them down. There was also what looked like a boost in confidence by each of them. I would contribute that to the increased playing time and ability to actually get into the game.
This bodes well for the Oilers, as all four lines were able to get on the scoresheet and contribute at both ends of the ice. In turn, it will make it harder for scratches and extras, Tyler Benson, Brendan Perlini, Colton Sceviour, and Kyle Turris to get any sort of playing time as they were already selected to be sidelined before the fourth line of Ryan McLeod, Devin Shore, and Derek Ryan performed well together.
It’s interesting to see three players who can play centre work efficiently on a line together, but that could also create an advantage because everyone can take a faceoff and everyone may feel like they have a bit more responsibility defensively as is the centreman’s job.
It was a well-fought game by the Oilers and they gave us all a lot to look forward to in the second half of the season with this group. Next up, the Oilers visit the Ottawa Senators to get revenge for their embarrassing loss two weeks ago.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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