Though surely no one expected the Canadiens to win all but one game on the season, their hot start has been cooled somewhat by last night's loss to the Oilers. Tonight, they look to get back to their winning ways against the other Alberta team, taking on the Flames in Calgary.
While losing the first game of the road trip is certainly not cause for celebration, one cannot help but feel that the team was overdue for one of those bad luck games that ends in an unfavourable result. That said, a rebound game against a team hovering around the .500 mark would go a long way towards making up for it. The Flames currently own a 1-2-1 record in their own barn, so this game has to be looked at as a winnable contest.
How to watch
Time: 9:00pm EST
In the Habs' region (English): City TV Montreal
In the Habs' region (French): RDS 2
In the Flames' region: Sportsnet Flames
Elsewhere: NHL Gamecenter Live or NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
Know Your Enemy
The first thing that the stats-hungry fan will want to know, or may know already, is that the Flames are among the worst in the league in Fenwick close. According to war on ice, only the Buffalo Sabres are currently worse than the Flames in this category. Easy pickings, right? Well, not exactly.
The Flames currently boast a record of 5-4-1 in this early season, a record much better than their statistical performance would suggest. As mentioned, they have done most of their winning on the road, and haven't quite been able to put together the same success in their own barn. Having the benefit of last change is usually a pretty big advantage, but in the Flames' case, they have a bit of a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot in that regard.
What I mean by this is that the Flames like to shuffle their lines a lot, and that inconsistency may be an issue in terms of establishing favourable match-ups when they have the last change. Currently, their top unit figures to be Jiri Hudler, Joe Colborne and Sean Monahan. Hudler and Colborne are the team's top two scorers, but Monahan for all his talent has been pretty sheltered zonally speaking this season. It should be interesting to see how that line is deployed with Calgary having last change.
Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund and Mason Raymond have been able to find some chemistry together, forming a speedy line that can handle secondary toughs. Curtis Glencross, Matt Stajan, and the surprisingly reliable Paul Byron round out the top nine, and while they don't pack a massive scoring punch, they aren't an afterthought either.
With their team PDO sitting at 103.3 on the year, the Flames are benefitting from a solid team save percentage. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo have split the duties so far this year, with the former puting up a sparkling .948 and the latter sitting at .914. They're not allowing a ton of goals against right now, so the Habs are going to have to put lots of rubber on nets tonight, as it figures to be the .948 owner in Hiller getting the start for the Flames.
As seen in the tale of the tape above, the biggest opportunity for the Canadiens seems to be on the powerplay. The Flames are currently allowing a goal on roughly 1/4 penalty kills, so the Canadiens' special teams unit will need to be better than it has been of late.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens pretty well dominated the Flames in their last meeting, which was at the Bell Centre back in February last season. Carey Price earned himself a 2-0 victory, with the Canadiens securing the win on goals from former Flame Rene Bourque and David Desharnais.
Not a high scoring affair, but a favourable result for the CH squad that on paper was arguably not as good as it is now (Douglas Murray was playing that night FYI.) Both teams have pretty different looks, and it should be a solid game as long as the Canadiens don't come out sluggish from last night's contest.