Oilers 2 – Canadian 1 (P) | Guhle replied.

(Montreal) Whether we like it or not, there remains a certain aura around a Saturday night game at the Bell Centre.



The Saturdays of the last two years have certainly not always been rich in emotions on rue de la Gauchetière. Let’s think about this 8-4 beating suffered at the hands of the Capitals two springs ago.

But the fact remains that these are matches broadcast a mare usque ad mare. From Patrick Roy’s last match with the CH to the opening of the Molson Center for the older generation, including Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal in overtime against Toronto for the youngest, there are plenty of memorable moments. Imagine, the most superstitious even go so far as to take out their ties for these duels.

In any case, for Martin St-Louis, these are sweet meetings. “If it was my last day on Earth, and you asked me what I would like to do, I would want to be in this arena on a Saturday night,” the head coach said Saturday.

This Oilers-Canadian will not exactly go down in the great history of Saturday nights in Montreal. The Oilers won 2-1 in overtime, at the end of a duel where the defensive prowess – not necessarily the goalkeepers’ saves – stood out more than anything else.

And it is in this highly anticipated duel that St-Louis decided to challenge Kaiden Guhle. The Canadiens head coach systematically pitted his young defender against Connor McDavid.

PHOTO GRAHAM HUGHES, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Connor McDavid and Kaiden Guhle

“It’s certainly a challenge for him, we show him that we have confidence in him. I think he likes that, those challenges. He did a very good job,” summarized St-Louis.

McDavid certainly set up Evan Bouchard’s winning goal while Guhle tried to protect the slot, but it was during a 4-on-3 Oilers power play. At even strength, however, Guhle and Mike Matheson closed the door. Edmonton certainly had the upper hand in shot attempts during the confrontations between the 21 of the CH and the 97 of the Oilers, but in the column of goals scored, it was zero everywhere, a victory in itself against the best player in the world.

” This is the dream. You always want to play against the best, described Guhle. I had fun. It’s cool to play against these players and try to make life difficult for them. That’s why you play, to experience those moments where the pressure is high, where the minutes are important. »

For Guhle, it was also a great way to bounce back after, by his own admission, a recent slump. Slump which was felt in its usage time: 21 min 12 s on average before Christmas, 18 min 21 s since. On Saturday, the counter stopped at 4 seconds from 20 minutes.

“I definitely wasn’t playing my best hockey, it wasn’t up to my standards,” Guhle admitted. Lately, I’ve started to play better, to find my game. It’s a difficult league and it won’t be perfect every game. You have to make sure you don’t get bored, keep your confidence, believe in your abilities. »

New duo

Where it gets intriguing is that Guhle delivered this performance alongside Matheson, while Justin Barron, his partner since late November, was left out.

PHOTO DOMINICK GRAVEL, THE PRESS

Mike Matheson (8)

In Matheson and Guhle, St-Louis therefore brought together its two best skaters to face one of the most agile players on his skates in the circuit.

“We managed McDavid’s speed well,” judged St-Louis. Matheson and Guhle cover a lot of ice, that helped us. Our forwards also helped us manage the speed, we didn’t let him breathe much. (…) It runs on a 10 cents, it is very explosive. With Matheson and Guhle, I was hopeful that we could handle this. »

The other intriguing aspect is that Guhle was moved to the right. Not since the Braves of Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, Charlie Leibrandt and Kent Mercer have we seen such congestion on the left. Matheson, Guhle, Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble in Montreal, Arber Xhekaj in Laval, Lane Hutson in the NCAA and Adam Engström in Sweden… The Habs will have no shortage of options on the left in the coming years.

Guhle on the right, “it gives flexibility,” admitted St-Louis. It’s easier for a defender to play on his edge and it’s easier for me to have left-right duos. The transition is easier. It’s to continue to evaluate, to see how he can manage his matches on the other side. He’s not the only one capable of doing it. We know that we have a lot of left-handers. »

By moving further and further away from the race for the playoffs, CH will be able to carry out experiments in the second half of the season. The blue line will be a laboratory to watch, on Saturdays or during the week.

Rising: Joel Armia

Applied defensively all evening, he did quite a job shorthanded. His 18 minutes on the ice, a high for him this season, were well deserved.

Down: Brendan Gallagher

No one really stood out in this duel, but Gallagher, who had avoided the dungeon since Christmas, received two penalties, one of which was more or less justified.

Number: 3

Like Joshua Roy, Philip Kemp also played his first game in the NHL, urgently inserted into the Oilers lineup. This defender was, however, used in attack. “Employee” is strong; he only made three appearances.

In details

Successful baptism for Joshua Roy

PHOTO DOMINICK GRAVEL, THE PRESS

Joshua Roy

Recalled the day before late in the evening to replace Josh Anderson, injured in his “lower body”, Joshua Roy, 20, experienced his NHL baptism on Saturday evening. His coach took great care to remove him from confrontations against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, although the Quebecer spent almost three minutes on the ice at five on five against the German center. Ultimately, Roy, without smashing anything, looked good in just over 13 minutes of use. He even got a short audition on the second wave of the power play, and Martin St-Louis sent his line – with Sean Monahan and Joel Armia – into the fray until late in the game. “I am satisfied with what I saw from him on a Saturday night at home against Edmonton,” St-Louis said. It was good work. » Roy remained circumspect following his performance. He spoke of the “tight” game, in a context where “all the players are good”. He has already received a lot of love from Laval Rocket fans, but the Bell Center crowd, “it’s another step,” he noted. “It’s incredible,” he said several times.

A signature goal for Caufield

PHOTO DOMINICK GRAVEL, THE PRESS

The match was not two minutes old when the Habs scored the first goal. But not just any goal. The kind that we saw regularly last season, but never again since the start of this campaign. Patient in possession of the disc in the right faceoff circle, Nick Suzuki mystified the opposing defense by serving a beautiful pass to Cole Caufield, posted to the left of the net. The reception and shot of number 22 were perfect. Midway through the period, the duo did it again, but goalkeeper Stuart Skinner, this time, was alert. Caufield didn’t seem very excited to talk about the goal, but Martin St-Louis praised his five-man attacking unit’s “reading of the game” on the shot. The result was a “signature” goal from Caufield, “like last year”. The locals had modified their positioning on the power play in order to adapt to the style of the Oilers, and it visibly paid off. “We don’t want to be a team that just has one thing,” the coach said. I know they are comfortable with this setup, but they are also starting to be comfortable with another one, where Suzuki and Caufield are on the same side. We continue to evolve. »

McDavid in halftone

PHOTO DOMINICK GRAVEL, THE PRESS

Connor McDavid

A few hours before the game, Connor McDavid said that the Bell Center was one of his favorite amphitheaters across the NHL. The reality, however, is that number 97 is not generally at his best on the Montreal ice, and Saturday’s game was no exception. The Oilers certainly got 48 (forty-eight!!!) attempts when their captain was on the ice, but the execution was far from perfect for the man who is unanimously considered the best player in the league. As if he was constantly looking to succeed in an individual play, even if the Montreal defense gave him little ground. He also received a punishment, and he probably could have been sent away a second time following a clash with Jake Evans, which instead saw the CH player sit in the cell. However, on this day marking its 27the anniversary, McDavid had expressed the wish that his team win a 10e game in a row, setting a franchise record. Failing to have experienced a historic exit on an individual level, he was at least granted.

Simon-Olivier Lorange, The Press


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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