For the last ten days, the Habs have gone no more than 48 hours between wins. With tonight's puck dropping 72 hours after their last one, the undefeated Montreal Canadiens will be champing at the bit.
Their opponent this evening is, in some ways, a team that the Habs are trying to become. The Blues have excellent depth, and Ken Hitchcock uses his talent effectively to create balanced scoring and fantastic possession numbers. In fact, going into tonight's game, the Blues are the only team in the league that can boast a better score-adjusted shot attempts percentage than the Habs.
If the Habs wish to continue a season-opening win streak unprecedented for their franchise, they'll need to continue to demonstrate the positive habits that the Blues have exemplified over the last couple of years. With a defence corps full of strong puck-movers, and an aggressive forecheck designed to set up skilled attackers, the Habs and Blues are using the same recipe for success.
Tonight, the Canadiens will look to earn their seventh straight win by proving that they can outplay St. Louis at their own game. And thanks to a measure of Missouri misfortune, that task will be made a little bit easier.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|58.2||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||59.5|
|2.75||5v5 Goal Ratio||2.14|
Know Your Enemy
The Canadiens know all about the perils of road trips through western Canada, and this year's iteration was particularly perilous for St. Louis. The Blues were successful, winning all four of their games against the Canucks, Flames, and Oilers (x2, including St. Louis' home opener), but that success came at a high cost. Just six games into the 2015-16 season, the Blues are sporting an impressive list of injuries.
Similar to Montreal's line adjustments, the Blues rejigged their lineup prior to the season, and the early returns were outstanding. The powerful first line of Paul Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Alex Steen was running rampant, but with Stastny now injured, the Habs will have to contend with a different challenge. Jori Lehtera looks set to move up to the top line, reuniting the 'STL' line that was so successful last year.
Meanwhile, with Lehtera moving up in the lineup, a familiar face will graduate to take his place. Scott Gomez made the Blues as a thirteenth forward, and after three games, managed to supplant Ryan Reaves on the fourth line. Now, Gomez looks like the prime candidate to centre what was the Blues' second line, playing pivot for Troy Brouwer and Jaden Schwartz.
The Blues third line should be well-stocked to take on their red hot Montreal's counterparts, as it features captain David Backes playing alongside Dmitri Jaskin and newcomer Scottie Upshall. The fourth line, sapped of talent due to injuries to Patrik Berglund and Robby Fabbri, may be vulnerable.
Things don't get any easier on the back-end, where the Blues are missing second pair fixture and powerplay ace Kevin Shattenkirk. While Shattenkirk's absence increases the pressure on Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Carl Gunnarsson to perform at even strength, the Blues' look to have found a good replacement for Shattenkirk's offence on the man advantage. Colton Parayko used his cannon of a slapshot to make his presence felt against Vancouver, and the 22-year-old will look to make a similar impression on Carey Price this evening.
With a dominant performance through two periods against the Canucks on Friday night, the Blues showed that they still have plenty of firepower. If the Canadiens are to uphold their designs on continuing to be the NHL's first place team, they'll have to shut down a team that no opponent has been able to hold down - yet.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens did just that last time out, overpowering the Blues to the tune of a 5-2 victory. Despite some internal turmoil, the Habs never faltered, earning a sweep of the teams' two game season series.
Jiri Sekac was abruptly traded earlier in the day, but in the evening, the Habs came out and put on one of their best performances of the season. Like tonight, the Habs benefited from the absence of Shattenkirk, who has recovering from abdominal surgery at the time.
Overall, the story of the Montreal season series win was their ability to capitalize on the sloppy play of their typically precise opponent. Injuries aside, the Canadiens best prepare for a team unlikely to slip up again.