For two painful games, fans of the Habs suffered as their team fell to the Buffalo Sabres. For the league's worst team, the sudden four point burst not only got them out of the basement temporarily, but even sparked analysis of their pre-game routine in search of an explanation for the new-found success.
After a tough first period against the Avalanche, the Habs finally started to look like themselves, hemming the Avs in their own zone and earning a steady stream of scoring chances. When Max Pacioretty broke in on an odd man rush, the Canadiens finally had the win that got them off the schneid.
So while the win marked the end of the Canadiens' losing streak, it also signaled the conclusion of one of the easiest stretches of the Habs' schedule, a run in which they earned only three of six available points.
Tonight, we'll find out if the Habs can extend their momentum against one of the NHL's strongest clubs.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00PM ET
In the Habs' region (French): RDS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
In Minnesota and surrounding states: Fox Sports North
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|50.51||Fenwick % (Within 1)||56.36|
|1.06||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.09|
Know Your Enemy
The Minnesota Wild may only have the league's 15th best record, but their play at even strength has been unparalleled so far this season.
Collecting over 56% of unblocked shot attempts, the Wild generate more shot attempts than any other NHL squad, while allowing the third fewest. If not for a number of unfortunate circumstances surrounding their fundamentally impressive play, the Wild might be running away with the league in the early going.
Sadly, the Twin Cities' team has been dragged down by some misfortune on offence, defence, and special teams. After a hot start, Darcy Kuemper has come back down to earth, and in addition to his poor track record over two games against Montreal, is sporting a below average .910 save percentage at even strength. Speaking of low percentages, several of Minnesota's key contributors are shooting at astoundingly low rates, including Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Mikko Koivu, and Charlie Coyle. While it's balanced out somewhat by Nino Niederreiter's early season tear, the offensive depression is probably an aggravating factor in their four one goal losses.
Finally, while Montreal's powerplay success rate has started to climb, the Wild are still converting less often than all but the previously mentioned Sabres. Unlike the Habs, the Wild's powerplay has actually done a pretty decent job at generating shots, ranking 6th in the league in that department. The goals are going to come, and the Canadiens will have to hope they don't come tonight.
Last Time Out
The Habs' last game against Minnesota fit right into the template of their season, as they played one of their worst periods of the year in the first 20 minutes against Minny. The Canadiens got murdered on shot attempts, 28-10, in the first stanza, surviving only on the strength of a Godlike performance by Carey Price.
His teammates rewarded his efforts as the game progressed, using some opportunistic offence to put four goals past Kuemper. The Canadiens probably deserved to be down three after the first period, and earned a three goal victory instead. Needless to say, the same formula should not be relied upon this evening.
The Habs have a great deal of potential, and if they could find a way to consistently play 60 minutes, they could elevate themselves to the status of a strong contender. Tonight, they get another first period to try and bring that vision to reality.