Oilers Gameday: March 5th vs Canadiens

habs retro oilers

Montreal (14-34-7) at Edmonton (30-21-4)


When these teams last met, January 29th, the Oilers won 7-2. The Habs were at perhaps their lowest point of the season, still with Durcharme at coach almost no player on the roster was looking like themselves. Since then, Martin St. Louis was brought in, and it seems to have completely rejuvenated the lineup. The Habs have even started to turn around their results as well, winning 6 of their last 7 games, notably with wins against both the Leafs and Flames.


Although the teams are at different points in regards to championship aspirations it is interesting to contrast the two in-season coaching hires. Woodcroft spent years as a video coach, presumably and anecdotally an Xs and Os type, who worked his way up the coaching ranks. Although he’s the first former video coach to make his way to the top job, his other might be even more conventional than St. Louis’ in some ways.


St. Louis’ main experience is as a player, as he famously hadn’t held a pro coaching position prior to this. Evidently St. Louis has been able to make it work, but it does warrant the question of what makes a good coach. The truth, like many things, is that there are multiple paths to the top.


Not to undersell St. Louis’ elite hockey sense, but it’s likely his empathy for his players, his competitiveness, and his natural leadership qualities that make the most impact. In some ways it reminds me of a manager in baseball, especially given how statistics have come to make so many of the decisions, the manager’s role is increasingly one of managing personality and the psyche of the team as a whole. As NHL coaching staffs continue to expand the onus to have a coach who is a tactician themselves might become less important.


Philosophical ponderings aside, the Oilers can ill afford to take their opponents lightly or expect an easy game like they won a month ago. Coming down to the final stretch of the season, each point will be crucial in the race for playoff spots. We’re expecting to see Smith in net for the Oilers while the Habs counter with Sam Montembeault.





  1. Shut down the top line. The Canadiens are lacking in some forward depth, but the Suzuki line is dangerous and very capable of putting up some numbers.



  1. Pounce early. The Oilers in general have been prone to giving up early goals but in general, as has Mike Smith. The Habs would do well to get out to an early lead.






Foegele — McDavid — Hyman

Kane — Draisaitl — Yamamoto

Malone — McLeod — Ryan

Benson — xxxxx — Shore


Nurse — Ceci

Keith — Bouchard

Niemelainen — Lagesson

Broberg — xxxxx







Caulfield — Suzuki — Anderson

Hoffman — Dauphin — Gallagher

Pitlick — Evans — Lehkonen

Armia — Poehling — Pezzetta


Romanov — Chiarot

Kulak — Petry

Clague — Wideman










The group up front is relatively unchanged from the last game. Despite key injuries, the top 6 still has enough firepower with Foegele jumping up, while Ryan and McLeod have looked great under Woodcroft.


Meanwhile, things on the blueline have changed recently, with Keith returning and Barrie sidelined. Bouchard and Keith is an interesting experiment, and they could be an interesting offensive pairing for the long run.


Niemelainen and Lagesson have both surprised this season in earning regular spots in the lineup. Of course with 7 defencemen dressed there is bound to be mixing and matching between pairings, but seeing the 2 handle significant minutes together will surely solidify their status as legitimate NHL defencemen.


It is still probably a year early for Broberg, but it’s a very good sign that he’s been serviceable. Anytime we get to see the Oilers too defensive prospect in the lineup it’s a glimpse to a stronger future. He may not have the offensive upside as Bouchard, for example, but he’s got the smarts and the physical tools to be a play controlling pillar on the back end.




Perhaps the biggest surprise within the coaching carousel in Montreal is the play of Cole Caulfield. The young sniper was incredible in last years run to the Cup final, something that one might have expected from following any of his pre-NHL career. What was a surprise was how ineffective Caulfield for most of this season, even being demoted to the AHL. Whatever the reason, St. Louis has Caulfield looking like a the franchise altering player he has the talent to be.


On his line are a pair of the Habs better players. Suzuki is already an elite defensive centre who should be one of the Habs better players for years to come. Josh Anderson is a rare blend of size, speed, and a bit of skill. Together, these 3 form a very capable line.


Dauphin has the opportunity of a lifetime, centring a pair of veteran wingers in Hoffman and Gallagher. When it’s all said and done it’s unlikely that he plays in an NHL top 6, but for now he’ll have the chance to show what he can do.


Arturri Lekhonen is earning a reputation as one of the league’s better defensive wingers, in large part thanks to his unrelenting effort. The offence is not quite there enough for him to attract a large spotlight league wide, but make no mistake Lehkonen brings a lot to the table.


It’s important that the Canadiens are getting a look at Romanov in an expanded role. Along with Kale Clague, he is a young player who could still be growing his game. Jeff Petry seems to be one of the players that has benefitted from the coaching change.

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