Tonight, the Habs take on a team that is going to be desperate. The Red Wings currently sit in one of the two wildcard spots, and are one of four teams sitting at 80 points in the eastern conference. Suffice to say, the Canadiens are probably going to have to bring it if they want to leave Detroit with a non-essential yet very helpful two points. I wouldn't expect the Habs to be able to Leaf it like they did against Boston, nor would I expect a snooze fest like we saw against Buffalo. Barring a Therrien style Pompeian shit catastrophe, I expect a solid tilt that provides much more entertainment.
The Habs will once again be without the services of Dale Weise, Josh Gorges, and Brandon Prust. The continued absence of Gorges hurts, but the Habs have been enjoying strong play from Mike Weaver, and also from Jarred Tinordi for the most part. I'd wager that every member of the EOTP community is praying that Doug Murray is the odd man out, and the sixth D-man will be Francis Bouillon. The Habs did manage a five on five domination of the Sabres with Murray in the lineup, but this ain't Buffalo folks.
Tale of the Tape
The return to the lineup of Michael Bournival has helped the team immensely with Prust, Moen, and Weise out. Max Pacioretty is awesome as always, Thomas Vanek has gotten his bearings, David Desharnais is doing well, heck even Danny Briere is starting to do well. If they can avoid getting heavily out-possessed at even strength, like they did against the Bruins, Carey Price won't be too busy and maybe McBriere can show off that wrist shot some more. The back to back was a good one and we should be a little optimistic.
That optimism in particular should apply to tonight's game, because Detroit is pretty decimated by injuries on the front end. It's not that they have a lot of injured guys, it's who's injured. The absence of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk is a huge advantage for the tricolore, as both will be out tonight. That's like us not having Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec... No thank you, and don't worry I knocked on wood.
They will also be without the services of Justin Abdelkader until next Wednesday. So to sum it up, we're going up against a team without their leading scorer, arguably their best player, and one of their depth guys. I think the Habs have a pretty good chance of winning. Jimmy Howard should get the call in nets, and has been reasonably solid this year, but I don't know that his 9.11 save percentage can withstand the lack of important bodies.
But, you can't count the Wings out by any stretch of the term. They still have an aged, but highly valuable Daniel Alfredsson, their lead goal scorer Gustav Nyquist, and the solid sophomore Tomas Tatar. Oh, not to mention that guy who hits people really hard and gets a lot of assists, Niklas Kronwall. This team is a respectable 5-4-1 in their last 10, and even without their two superstars, they're dangerous and the Habs will need to come to play. When you add the fact that they're clinging to a wild card spot, and only have 10 games to play, you can't not think that they're going to come out hard.
Coming off that back to back on one day's rest won't be easy, as any hockey player would tell you, but it's not like they'll be totally flat footed. As long as they come out the gate hard and maintain pressure, as in not try to sit on a one goal lead, they should win. Detroit is a good team, but being down their two best players has to count for something. As I said, if Pacioretty and Plekanec went down, Montreal would be in a similar situation, and being Habs fans we'd probably all be panicking on a ridiculous level. Unlike Detroit, the Habs are mostly whole, and let's face it, we have an unreal goaltender, right? Without trying to knock Detroit, I'm saying this is a very winnable game.
In the end, it is still important for the Habs to keep trying to win games. At 89 points with eight games to play, the Habs are not mathematically guaranteed anything, and they need to be thinking about seeding. It didn't help last year, but no one can deny the home ice advantage of the Bell Centre. Playoffs are coming, time to man up, boys.