The Edmonton Oilers did not play their best hockey on Saturday night and lost big to Montreal Canadiens, who did everything better on the ice. Here are three takeaways from the Oilers 5-1 loss to the Habs:
Price Had a Big Night Against the Oilers
The Canadiens had more shots, at 36-35, and won the game, 5-1. Just from looking at the shots, one might have thought that the game was a lot closer, but the Oilers had a hard time scoring this Saturday night. The main reason for that was the performance of the Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who showed why he still is one of the best goalies in the NHL. It didn’t matter how many pucks the Oilers shot at him – Price was saving everything.
When Slater Koekkoek finally ended the shutout at 12.59 in the third period, it was too late. The Canadiens had a 5-0 lead and Price had already earned two points in the standings for Montreal. Maybe the most important save came on a partial breakaway from Connor McDavid when the score was 1-0. McDavid stole the puck at the Oilers blueline and skated fast towards the Canadiens goal, but with the help of Joel Edmundson, Price was able to deny McDavid from equalizing. And the Oilers captain was impressed by the Canadiens goaltender after the game.
“Price did what he always does. He was solid all over”, McDavid said.
Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen did not perform at the same level. While Price seemed unstoppable, Koskinen let at least a few pucks in the net that the Montreal goaltender probably would have stopped.
With a solid backup in Jake Allen, Price will also be able to get the rest he needs to perform well during the whole season. Koskinen will have to carry a big load with Mike Smith injured and third choice Anton Forsberg claimed off waivers by the Winnipeg Jets.
On the same night as the Oilers played against the Canadiens, Jacob Markstrom, who the Oilers wanted to sign this season, made 32 saves when his new club, the Calgary Flames, shut out his old team, the Vancouver Canucks. One cannot help to wonder what Oilers general manager Ken Holland must have been thinking, considering the current goalie situation in Edmonton.
The Oilers Defense Was Not Good Enough Against the Canadiens
It wouldn’t be fair to lay all the blame on Koskinen. A goalie needs help from the team’s defense, and the Oilers goaltender didn’t get that help. Defenseman Adam Larsson was critical when he talked about how he and his teammates played defensively.
“We really believe in Mikko and I think he’s a tremendous goalie,” Larsson said after the game. “They had a couple of breakaways in the past two games too. So it’s not really on him. We just have to be tighter defensively. That’s all.”
Three of the goals came out of situations when Edmonton lost the puck while on the attack outside their own zone, which gave the Canadiens the opportunity to counterattack. So there certainly is some merit to Larsson’s claim that the skaters left Koskinen in hard situations during the game.
Darnell Nurse went for a big hit instead of trying to use his stick to get the puck away, which caused a 2-on-1 situation that led to the second goal for Montreal. But Nurse was not the only one making mistakes. The Oilers lost puck possession on several occasions which the Canadiens took advantage of to create chances and score goals. The Oilers must minimize sloppy plays like that if they should have a chance to advance to the playoffs, as one of four teams in the tough North Division.
The Oilers Power Play Needs to Improve
The Oilers who had the best power play in the NHL last season were not able to score at the man advantage against the Canadiens, even though they had several chances to do so.
In the middle of the second period when the score was 3-0 to the Canadiens, the Oilers had a golden opportunity to get back in the game with a power play. But instead of scoring a goal, Edmonton lost possession of the puck after another great save by Price on a shot from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, which created a turnover that the Canadiens were able to score on.
The Oilers had three opportunities on the power play, but they didn’t score. They had some scoring chances, but each time, Price was there to stop them. Edmonton has scored on the power play in one of the three games they played so far. That is not good enough for a team that has used the power play as one of its most dangerous offensive threats.
But maybe it’s too early to panic. In the second game against the Canucks, the Oilers scored twice on the power play, and even though they didn’t score on the man advantage against the Canadiens, they had several solid scoring chances.
Montreal was faster, won the most puck battles, and seemed hungrier to score goals. But most of all, they had Price who stopped almost everything this night. Hopefully, there is an Oilers team that is hungrier, has a better-organized defense and can score on the power play that will come out on the ice on Monday night. That’s what the Oilers need to do if they should be able to beat the Canadiens and their goaltender.