Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Two months in; time to change the oil

Thanks goodness it's December

Tonight, questions will become answers. (tm)
And the biggest question of all: Was Carey Price's Mo-vember moustache the secret to his phenomenal goaltending performance for the month of November? 

Carey would be the first to tell you that he's not the least bit superstitious. Case in point: when the game puck is retrieved after a shut-out, Price promptly tosses it to an admiring fan instead of keeping it for his own pleasure. But when it comes to trimming hair when at the peak of your powers, well, you remember the story about Samson, right?

Coming into the season, Price's critics had him down as one big question mark. He answered with an excellent month of October, in which he won the Molson Cup. Then he started growing his Mo-vember 'stache.

In November, Price was otherworldly. In 12 starts, he was 8-4, with a minuscule 1.59 goals against average and a lofty .952 save percentage and three shut-outs. And when you take into consideration that in Price's four losses the Habs only scored a total of 4 goals... let's just hope that his mojo wasn't washed down the drain with the caterpillar.

The Oilers, meanwhile, are hoping to follow in the the footsteps of Pittsburgh, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago as teams that have followed the formula of "sucking for success". Except that the Oilers haven't been quite as great those other teams have been at turning high draft picks into can't miss, franchise-level prospects. They've turned their picks into a decent crop of speedy forwards which works well on the fast ice of the Northlands Coliseum whatever their calling their arena nowadays. Next up: their defense and goaltending. Keep finishing low and bringing on those high draft picks!  

2010-2011 Regular Season, Game 25: Edmonton at Montreal

  • Geez... anyone else having problems with the RDS audio? Am I going to instead have to suffer through McGuire on TSN?
  • Odd bounce off of the boards; were they watching the game last night in Toronto?
  • Habs' game plan looks to be to get a lot of rubber on the Oiler net
  • With the extra days off, they must think that their penalty kill is rusty. 8 minutes in, 2 penalties
  • Bruins/Flyers. Is it possible for both teams to get 0 points tonight?
  • On the powerplay, Gomez centres a pass for Darche, but it goes in off an Oiler standing in the slot. Hey, I'm sure that he'll take it. 1-0 Habs!
  • Aaand the Oilers come right back on their third  powerplay of the period. Pouliot off for high sticking, Foster with a slap shot up under the crossbar from under the top of the left circle. Tied at 1. 

In the first period back after a long layoff, the Habs came out skating hard to a 15-9 shot advantage. They also led in the faceoff circle, 9-6. Unfortunately the also led in penalties taken, 3-1, and it caught up to them.

  • Good pace in the early going, with not a lot of whistles. Entertaining
  • Yikes! Kostitsyn takes a slapshot from Subban off the inner thigh, ans Plekanec literally pushes him to the bench
  • Another powerplay goal! Darche taps in a Cammalleri rebound from the lip of the crease. 2-1 Habs!
  • How about Hamrlik! Pouliot with some incredible puck posession then a shot on net... and the Hammer is there to tap in an easy rebound. 3-1 Habs!
  • I'll give this to the Oilers: they're fast!
  • Phew! Kostitsyn's back, and doesn't look any worse for wear
  • Does any team get more short-handed odd-man rushes than the Habs?

If there's one thing that Edmonton does worse than anything else, it's kill penalties. The Hab powerplay has struck twice on two powerplays to jump out to a 3-1 lead, thought the Oilers had the edge in shots, 13-11.

  • I'd be happy to not see the Habs in the penalty box this period
  • Taylor Hall does everything that he can to sell phantom high stick, and Hamrlik sits for two... and teaches the kid some Czech swear words on his way off
  • 9 minutes into the period, and shots are just 3-1 for Montreal
  • Josh Gorges bowls over Price, taking him out of the play and leaving a wind open net for the Oilers. 3-2 Habs.
  • No penalty call on a trip on Cammalleri, Subban pinches, gets caught and the Oilers score shorthaded on a 2-on-1. Tied at 3.
  • Subban puts a pass into Cammalleri's skates, turning the puck over to Dustin Penner who breaks in alone to score the winner.

The Habs played sloppy in that period, with turnovers turning into the tying and winning goals for the Oilers. Final shots: 39 for Montreal, 32 for Edmonton.


Dustin Penner scores on a breakaway in overtime to seal a 4-3 win over the Habs. Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty

Great. Now I'm too angry to sleep. It wasn't quite as bad as the Leafs' collapse against the Lightning the previous night, but it was close.

Was it the three days off that had them unfocused? Unlikely, since they played an excellent first 40 minutes. Unfortunately, they followed that up with mental mistakes and bad choices, which allowed the young but talented Oilers to take advantage and snatch victory form the jaws of defeat. 

More likely, it was a case of the old "we're up by 2 against a bottom-feeder" syndrome. In essence, the took the Oilers too lightly, and in the end it hurt them. Up by one on the powerplay late in the game? Why, you dive, making an ill-advised pinch while taking yourself out of the play, sending the Oilers away on a short-handed 2-on-1, of course. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Subban. Make a poor, hurried breakout pass up the middle into the skates of the intended recipient, causing a breakaway in overtime? Subban's got that one, too.

True, the kid's going to make mistakes; but if he's going to accept the responsibility of critical minutes, then he's got to be better. This isn't to hang this game on PK (there were quite a few Habs that had 'checked-out' after grabbing the two-goal lead), but at the same time it's not too hard to imagine Markov not making those kinds of mental errors. But what are you going to do? Keep this one on file, learn from the mistakes, and take it before every game to remind yourselves to play hard for the full 60(5) minutes. 

Hey, at least it's a point, right?

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