by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Alex Galchenyuk (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

EDMONTON, AB. — I made it to the first of three NHL games I’m set to take in this season. Flying to Edmonton from St. John’s, NL isn’t the most ideal gameplan, but with family in town I capitalized on the opportunity to take in a game in a city I’ve yet to visit. The Habs put on an absolute clinic On Thursday night and showed exactly why they have been the best team in the league in this young season… for 20 minutes. For 20 minutes I was watching a contender, a true Stanley Cup challenger.

Here are my four observations of the game:

  1. Rexall’s farewell.
    It was clear from the get go that this was Rexalls final season, as you drive up to the concrete slab called an arena, only rivalled by that of the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Of course next season the Oilers are moving to their new home Rogers Place. There was a sea of red as the teams took ice for their warm ups. Habs fans easily made up of 50 per cent of the attendance, interchanging “Go Habs Go!” with “Lets Go Oilers!”, Rexall truly was treated to a rowdy crowd tonight. Whether for the right or wrong team, it was only fair that a stadium with as many memories as Rexall, had another great one.
  2. This Connor guy.
    Connor McDavid was getting a treatment from P.K. Subban all night. It was clear that the Canadiens did what every team will be doing for the next decade and beyond, and that is develop a game plan for taking on No. 97. His speed was impressive, his acceleration was undeniable, but his ability to operate the game at top speed was phenomenal. He will be just fine.
  3. This was a tale of two Habs.
    As mentioned in the intro, this team showed up for 20 minutes. I’ve seen reports saying they showed up for 39 minutes. That’s false. The Canadiens were outstanding in the first, and it was as if they walked off the ice, packed their bags and left, and someone brought out the Habs of 2014-15 and brought them back. Not that they weren’t good, they were at times. But they showed a level of arrogance, a level of content that they had a lead, and they’d play to hold it. All season I’ve enjoyed watching a team with their foot on the pedal, not tonight, this team sat back and relied too much on Carey Price to make plays to win the game.
  4. Galchenyuk overthinking
    Chuckie had a beautiful goal late in the third to make it a 3-0 game. There’s no doubt about that, but he was clearly out of his element tonight. The shift in lineup by Therrien resulted in Brian Flynn playing second line centre. Galchenyuk shifted to the wing and although he played positionally well, it was as if he was overworking his job. The reason Eller has looked as effective as he has this season was because he’s embraced the simplified North-South concept of being a winger. Galchenyuk was placed on the right side all night, and he was all over the ice. I would like to see Therrien give him the reigns to move back to centre and control the play once again, the way Chuckie skated he’s probably in the same mindset.

Overall it was a game to remember, it’s clear Edmonton has finally gotten themselves on the right track, and not because of the “W”. Win or lose it was going to be an improvement for the Oilers on previous years. But they have hope, and McDavid will be leading the charge as they climb back into the realm of relevance in the Western Conference. I do not think they will make the playoffs this year, but I won’t be shocked to see them at the dance in the years to come. As for the Habs it is important that they rebound, and luckily for us they do not have much time to swell on this loss. Onto Calgary to take on the Flames in the second half of their back to back.