The final week of the regular season has arrived, and the Edmonton Oilers fate has been decided. Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be at Rogers Place, as the Oilers locked in the second seed in the North Division via Saturday night’s results. With Connor McDavid hitting 100 points on that same night, the club is now just trying to hit the finish line playing solid hockey and, most importantly, healthy.
Tonight, the Oilers visit the Montreal Canadiens for the eighth of nine meetings on the season. This is the first of a two-game set in Montreal that will conclude on Wednesday afternoon. The Oilers are 1-1-1 in Montreal this season, and 2-4-1 overall against the Habs on the campaign.
Jake Allen gets the go for the Canadiens, while Mikko Koskinen gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Early intensity. The Oilers have been caught early against the Canadiens in all but two of their meetings this season. Montreal isn’t the most skilled team, but they are big, tough, physical and very motivated. The Oilers can’t afford to ease themselves into this game. Montreal is playing for their playoff spot right now. Edmonton needs to match that intensity early to have a chance.
Montreal: Bring the heat physically. The Canadiens have enjoyed success in this season series because of their ability to limit Edmonton’s offensive attack. The Habs play a tough, physical, game that both limits and frustrates the Oilers. They know how to take advantage of this matchup. The key is now acting on it and executing.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Ryan McLeod has done a good job of injecting some speed and responsible play into Edmonton’s middle-six forward group. He’s yet to score a point in the National Hockey League, however. McLeod has generated some looks lately, but hasn’t had any luck. Is tonight the night, in his first game against the Canadiens? One gets the feeling that he is due and that the Oilers want him to get going offensively before the playoffs.
Montreal: Jeff Petry is going to have to play a big role for the Canadiens tonight in shutting down the Oilers stars. With both Shea Weber and Philip Danault out, Petry will be tasked with big minutes against big stars. He’s excelled in the matchup so far this season, and has even chipped in a team-leading six points (2 g, 4 a) in seven prior meetings.
The Oilers did not run line rushes this morning, so the lineup will be made apparent during warmups. It’s expected that the lineup will be similar to the one that knocked off the Canucks 4-3 on Saturday night. Dmitry Kulikov (undisclosed), Gaetan Haas (foot), Kris Russell (lower body) and Joakim Nygard (hand) are day-to-day. Kyle Turris, Patrick Russell, Tyler Ennis and Alex Stalock are expected to be healthy scratches.
Zack Kassian (lower body) and Slater Koekkoek (upper body) are both on LTIR and will not play in Montreal.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Dominik Kahun – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
James Neal – Ryan McLeod – Alex Chiasson
Devin Shore – Jujhar Khaira – Josh Archibald
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
William Lagesson – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Ethan Bear
The Canadiens have some key players unable to go tonight. Shea Weber (upper body), Carey Price (concussion) and Philip Danault (concussion) are day-to-day and will not play tonight or Wednesday. Jonathan Drouin has stepped away from the team for personal reasons, while Brendan Gallagher (thumb) is on IR and nearing a return.
Montreal Canadiens Lines:
Tyler Toffoli – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Tomas Tatar – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Josh Anderson
Corey Perry – Eric Staal – Cole Caufield
Paul Byron – Jake Evans – Artturi Lehkonen
Joel Edmundson – Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak – Ben Chiarot
Alexander Romanov – Jon Merrill
“Personally, you try to use the last eight, 10, 12 games of the season to get your game in order and make sure you feel good about yourself physically and mentally,” Alex Chiasson said Monday morning from Montreal. “It’s a good test for our team tonight. Probably as close to playoff-types of games as we’re going to get.”
The North Division playoff picture could be completely clear by the end of the night. If the Canadiens get a point of any kind in this game, they’ll clinch the final playoff berth in the North. If the Winnipeg Jets win tonight? They’ll lock up the number three seed and a date with the Oilers in round one. If Edmonton wins both tonight and Wednesday in regulation? Things get very interesting in Calgary and Vancouver.
It’s been lost in how good the McDavid and Draisaitl duo has been this season, but the Oilers have been getting some big offensive numbers from the blueline. Tyson Barrie has the most points of any free agent signing, forward or defense, this season and is second overall in scoring by a defenseman with 46 points (8 g, 38 a). Darnell Nurse, meanwhile, has the second-most goals among defensemen with 16.