Daily Hab-it: When circumstances get in the way
The Edmonton Oilers' Kurtis Foster, left, defends goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, right, from Montreal Canadiens', Travis Moen, during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, on Thursday, February 17, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Ulan
By Arpon Basu
Published Friday, February 18, 2011 1:54AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
It's only natural to think that the Canadiens dropping both games this season against the lowly Edmonton Oilers is catastrophic.
With those three extra points in the bank, the Canadiens would be first in their division and third in the conference.
Except that's not how things work in real life.
No, real life is impacted by circumstance.
James Wisniewski's puck under the eye in the first period Thursday night and the ensuing fountain of blood leaving his face was one of those circumstances. Paul Mara's equipment getting lost in transit to Rexall Place was another one. Carey Price failing to reach the high standard established by his Oilers counterpart Nikolai Khabibulin was yet another one.
Playing with a 5-man defence corps comprised of two players who would normally be sitting in the press box is not a recipe for success, either, and it clearly wasn't in Edmonton.
I could go on, because there were a lot of reasons the Canadiens dropped this game 4-1.
But the way the game went, they had every reason to win in spite of all that. From the start of the second period on they controlled the play, they seemed to have the puck the majority of the time, they were maintaining offensive pressure.
Except the fact that nothing came of it aside from a mucker goal by Jeff Halpern is what is concerning.
The forwards had no excuse in this game, and they were the ones who needed to take it over when they had the chance.
I was originally going to write this post about how Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn showed signs of life for the first time in weeks, how this may be a sign of a re-awakening that would act like a rocket booster for the Canadiens and their push to the playoffs. They were engaged, they were involved, and they had an impact on the game.
But again, circumstances got in the way, and in light of them I can't say the two were all that special.
Olivier Bouchard writes a tremendous blog, En Attendant Les Nordiques, that breaks down every Canadiens game statistically, leaning heavily on scoring chances. If you've never taken a visit, I highly suggest it.
Thankfully, I did take a visit after the game and saw the point Olivier makes himself in his game notes, that Gomez and Kostitsyn had the enormous benefit of a favourable matchup in this game.
Tomas Plekanec was up against the only veteran forward line the Oilers have – Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky – and so his role was typically loaded with equal parts defence and offence. He also spent the bulk of the game against the Oilers top defence pairing of Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid.
Gomez, however, was left to play against Andrew Cogliano's line with rookies Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, all very talented, but players veterans should be able to take advantage of.
And Gomez did if you look at scoring chances produced, shots attempted and all sorts of other statistical qualifiers. Except Eberle scored the go-ahead goal with Gomez, Kostitsyn and their linemate Travis Moen on the ice, while they produced nothing offensively tangible.
It was another one of those game circumstances that Gomez and his linemates needed to take advantage of, especially when the team's top offensive threat is essentially clearing out all the difficult minutes for you.
Instead, they lost the head to head battle against a couple of rookies and their fourth-year centre.
Even though Price would have probably liked to have the second and third goals back, it was once again a line centred by Gomez that played a key role in a loss.