So far, so good. Three games into the 2015-16 season, the Canadiens have earned a full six points, downing three consecutive divisional opponents without ever being in real danger of losing.
While the Habs are still perfecting their defensive zone breakout, their neutral zone game and relentless forecheck has generated chances, drawn penalties, and kept opponents occupied away from Carey Price and Mike Condon. But with three tougher opponents lined up for this week, the Canadiens will have to find a way to generate the same effective play at a much greater degree of difficulty.
Erik Karlsson's talents aside, the Habs have not yet faced a truly dangerous offensive group, nor a true superstar forward. Tonight, they'll have to find a way to handle three.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
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Tale of the Tape
|60.8||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||43.5|
|6.00||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.33|
Know Your Enemy
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Of course, while the Penguins offensive potential is well-documented, it hasn't yet come to fruition in this young season. The Pens have managed just one goal in two games so far, getting shutout by a heroic Antti Niemi in Dallas and putting up a single tally against Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes.
Even worse, Pittsburgh has been bleeding scoring chances themselves. Both the Coyotes and Stars advanced on the Penguins' goal at will, with Pittsburgh relying heavily on Marc-Andre Fleury to keep games close. If Mike Johnston and co. can't tighten things up, the dangerous and balanced Habs are going to keep scoring.
Whether or not the Penguins can find the lineup combinations that offer production up and down the roster in time for tonight's game, their explosive top line should still be considered armed and dangerous. The Phil Kessel acquisition has reaped outstanding early returns well beyond the fact that he currently owns the team's only goal of the season. Kessel could have had a hat trick in the third period against Dallas alone, denied only by a few unbelievable saves by Niemi. When the Penguins went full court press, and united a line of Kessel, Crosby, and Malkin, Dallas' only play was to duck, cover, and pray for the clock to expire.
Through two games, the Penguins' problem has been their play when their stud forward and top defensive pair have not been on the ice, and it's fair to wonder if the bottom of their roster can support a Stanley Cup-worthy top group. One way or another, however, the goals are going to come, especially for that first line. With Pittsburgh's talent, scoring is a matter of when, not if.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens did in the preseason exactly what they hope to do tonight. The SEGa line was humming when these two teams met for an exhibition match in Quebec City, and their efforts were rewarded with a pretty Lars Eller tip job and Kris Letang-propelled goal that originated on the stick of Alex Semin. Even better, depth wingers Dale Weise and Brian Flynn got in on the fun, giving Montreal more than enough offence to take down the undermanned Pens.
With typically strong goaltending and a transition game that has kept the puck away from Montreal's end, the Habs have successfully contained all three of their opponents to-date. Tonight, we'll see if they can keep up their strong play against a squad that's overdue for some scoring.
Sadly, nhl.com does not have game highlights for the Habs-Penguins preseason affair, but you can take a look at our recap in its place.