Coming off something of a collapse last night in Edmonton, the Habs will look to get back to their winning ways against the Calgary Flames tonight, as they close out their western road trip.
It was all gravy in the first nine games of the season, but two losses in a row now have the Canadiens desperate to right the ship. While the two teams hitting the ice on Friday rest at opposite ends of the standings, the game will feature a pair of clubs who are both looking to stop a skid, the Flames having dropped three straight.
The Habs will need to play a different style of game than what we saw on Thursday night, that is if they are to avoid heading back to the Bell Centre with no wins out west. The lowly Flames, on paper, should be the perfect candidate for the team to get back on track; but then, so should have been the Oilers.
Calgary will be the better-rested team, having last played on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see how the teams look off the opening draw. In any event, the Canadiens' focus will need to be on driving the play again - something that was lost on them in Edmonton.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|52.6%||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||45.6%|
|1.71||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.41|
Know Your Enemy
The Calgary Flames were the Cinderella team of the NHL last season, but thus far they have been unable to recreate that magic.
Surprising the hockey world by making the playoffs and eliminating the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames and their fans had high expectations coming into 2015-16; expectations which have not been met. With just two wins in their first ten games of the season, and the league's worst goal differential, the Flames are stuck in quite the slump.
Through the first 10 games of the campaign, the Flames have actually been a better possession team than they were a year ago. Compared to last season, the shooters just aren't converting as much, and they aren't getting a whole lot of help from their goaltenders.
Offensively, the Flames actually manage fairly well in terms of generating shots, sitting in the upper half of the league in that regard.
More success will come as their snipers find the net with more regularity - Johnny Gaudreau in particular. While the sophomore has been tremendous with 11 points in 10 games, Gaudreau has found the net just once this season, and is yet to pot a goal at even strength.
The Flames' biggest issue may actually be on defense. With 247 shots against, Calgary is among the NHL's worst, making it no big surprise that they've allowed more goals per game than any team in the league. Of course, the team had been without T.J. Brodie - who had a breakout performance in 2014-15 - until their last game on Wednesday, and as he acclimates himself back to a high level play, we can expect to see some improvement on the Flames' back end.
It has been anything but pretty between the pipes in Calgary this season, with three goalies sharing time in the crease.
With Jonas Hiller going down to injury, it looks like it will be Joni Ortio and Karri Ramo having a time-share of the net for now, with Ortio likely holding the advantage in the short-term. Ortio allowed 4 goals on 35 shots in his only start of the season thus far, and has a .911 SV% when you take into account the two games he has entered in relief. Ramo, by comparison, holds a .879 SV% and an 0-3 record. In any case, the Flames goaltending situation has to be considered a problem.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens and Flames last met nearly a year ago, tonight's game being the first meeting between the clubs since November 2, 2014, a night the Habs would sooner forget.
Calgary was victorious in that game, which was a woeful overall performance by the Habs, who would manage just 20 shots on goal to the Flames' 36. Josh Jooris got the scoring started just five minutes into the first period, before Markus Granlund added another one to the Flames' lead right before the buzzer.
Curtis Glencross would have the only marker in the second frame, extending the lead to three. The Habs would finally strike just seconds into the third period thanks to Max Pacioretty, but it would be too little too late, as the Flames added a few more en route to a 6-2 win.
If the Habs hope to win on Friday night, they need only look back at this performance to see what not to do. That said, the type of game we saw a year ago has not been typical of this season's Habs, and the Flames haven't quite lived up to last year's hype in the first ten games of the season, either.
Of course, no team in the NHL is to be underestimated, and the Habs will need to be on their game once again as they hope to end their road trip on a positive note.