It's an annual tradition for the Montreal Canadiens: the Superbowl weekend back-to-back. With the Arizona Coyotes looming on Sunday, the Habs will kick-off their weekend with a 1:00 PM EST start against the Washington Capitals.
The Canadiens enter the game coming off of one of their strongest efforts in a while. Montreal stuck with the New York Rangers all Thursday night, pressuring Henrik Lundqvist until he finally relented on a Max Pacioretty wrister. For a team that often gets a win in the standings without justifying those points with their play on the ice, their most recent game showed fewer of the flaws we've seen of late.
This afternoon, the Habs will step up to perhaps a more difficult challenge. Braden Holtby may not be the King, but top-to-bottom, the Capitals have been a better hockey team than the Blueshirts this year. For Montreal, this is an important opportunity to work toward shedding their reputation as a red herring contender.
How to Watch
Start time: 1:00 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
In the United States: NHLN-US
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|48.3||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||52.3|
|1.22||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.12|
Know Your Enemy
The Rangers have a couple of serious weapons, led by Rick Nash, but with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on their top line, the Caps are more than able to match in terms of firepower. Beyond the two superstars, Barry Trotz's squad has four more double digit goal scorers spread through their top nine.
Most impressive, however, has likely been the team's possession play. The Capitals are wrapping up an easier stretch of schedule, but even after adjusting for the reduced strength of opponent, the Caps have been rolling. Only once in their last eight games have they found themselves below 52.9% Fenwick, an impressive record of consistency.
Sadly, allowing four goals per game, as the Capitals have over the four games that preceded their most recent one, is not a recipe for success, meaning that Wednesday's shutout victory over Pittsburgh actually snapped a four game losing streak.
That stretch of defensive zone generosity is probably an abnormality, however, as Holtby sandwiched three of his worst games of the year between two shutouts. On the whole, the Saskatchewan native has been solid in Trotz's shot suppressing system, meaning that even with Carey Price in net, a Montreal win will likely require more than the one (or two, depending on your camera angle) goal scored on Thursday night.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens last game against the Washington Capitals looked a lot like the two games that preceded the match against the Rangers.
The Habs were overrun virtually all game, but Dustin Tokarski stood tall to keep the game close. The Capitals held a one-goal lead for the better part of two periods, but the Canadiens were able to punch their ticket to the shootout with a goal midway through the third.
Once in the talent show, Montreal took over. Their efforts were highlighted by a ridiculous Alex Galchenyuk deke; a play the impact of which can be effectively illustrated in only the fashion presented by Dave Murray in the EOTP recap.
Whether it's game 2 or game 47, the Canadiens have demonstrated a propensity for victory, even when they may not have earned it. On Thursday, though, the hard-fought two points they earned looked a little different. This afternoon, they'll try try to make a second straight positive game into a five-game win streak.