With their fifth consecutive victory to start the 2015-16 season, the Canadiens set a new franchise record. Tonight, they'll seek to extend two existing streaks.
A win tonight would push the Habs' season-opening win streak record to six, and give them a seventh straight win over the Detroit Red Wings. With the team looking universally improved, they may just be in good position to take down a squad they haven't lost to since February, 2014.
The Habs will look to maintain a style of play that has been not only entertaining, but also highly effective. The team is averaging an extra eight even-strength shots per game relative to last year's output, and this increase in productivity has translated to an extra half-goal per game so far.
Encouragingly, this uptick in offence has taken place without an increase in shooting percentage - in fact, the team has been a little less lucky in that regard so far than they were last year.
If the Canadiens are enjoying some good fortune, it may be rooted in the fact that their on-ice save percentage, somehow, has increased over last season's mark. With this team's run of unbelievable goaltending coming up on 14 months, however, it is difficult to believe that the Habs' superstar goalie is due to regress anytime soon.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:30 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In Canada (English): CBC
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|57.6||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||49.9*|
|3.33||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.57|
*Prior to Friday's games.
Know Your Enemy
For the last decade, the Detroit Red Wings have been about as competitive as a NHL organization can be. Even as top-tier talent aged and turned over, the Red Wings continually found themselves in the playoff picture year after year, extending a streak unprecedented in North American pro sports.
This year, they face a different challenge: maintaining their consistency even in the absence of Mike Babcock, the man who acted as the architect of so much of that recent success. As has often been the case of late, the Red Wings are facing that challenge without two of their more reliable veterans, puck wizard Pavel Datsyuk and playoff folk hero Johan Franzen. In their place, the Wings will rely on teenager Dylan Larkin, who's pulling first-line duty with Henrik Zetterberg, as well as offseason signee Brad Richards, who has been entrusted with anchoring the second line.
So far, under Jeff Blashill, the team's results are mixed. The Red Wings are 3-1-0, with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, a beatdown of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and 1-1 record against the Carolina Hurricanes. These Wings have been slow starters.
It's tough to make a judgment call when a team has only played four games, including two against the same opponent, but the Red Wings may be more vulnerable than their record suggests. A failure to assert themselves in driving the play, and increased dependence on some high quality goaltending sounds like last year's Montreal Canadiens. Without a certain someone as an insurance policy, however, this year's Habs may join the Hurricanes in prompting the Red Wings to rethink their approach.
Last Time Out
The Habs' last game against Detroit was a record-breaker, as the Montreal win marked Carey Price's 43rd victory of the season. The Canadiens outlasted the Red Wings in what was a battle of attrition, taking advantage of an opportune 5-on-3 man advantage, and some less than stellar goaltending from Jimmy Howard.
In the end, it was the Habs dynamic duo of Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk that ended it, as Eller flew down the left wing and put the puck past an ill-positioned goalkeeper.
Howard's first two starts of the year look like something of a resurgence, but the Habs won't have to worry about his presence tonight. Petr Mrazek, the Wings playoff hero of last spring, will get his first ever start against Montreal this evening. If the Czech Republic native can't stop players like Eller and Galchenyuk from pushing the Habs to another fast start, he may become just another victim of Montreal's sublime streak.