When a team has compiled a 13-2-2 record over their first 17 games, the element of surprise is no longer at their disposal.
Leading many a set of power rankings and sitting atop the league standings as well, the Canadiens have been a juggernaut through the first fifth of the season. With the league's highest goal total, and a goals against total unaffected by the loss of the team's star goaltender, the Canadiens' formidable presence will not be mistaken when the Avalanche step onto the Bell Centre ice tomorrow. The Avs, conversely, are likely hoping to sneak up on Montreal.
In Patrick Roy's first season at the helm, the team enjoyed a magical campaign that turned into a pumpkin during the first round of the playoffs. Last season's strong finish was not enough to offset a poor start.
With another slow start, and an absurdly competitive division to contend with, the Avalanche's playoff aspirations are already looking more like more of a dream than reality.
With a little bit of momentum behind them, however, the Avs are hoping to prove that they're more than their record suggests.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): TVAS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
In the Avalanche region: Altitude
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.2||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||44.4|
|1.63||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.96|
Know Your Enemy
Colorado started on approximately the poorest possible terms, managing only four wins over their first twelve games. And if their record was less than encouraging, their possession performance in those games was even worse.
Over the last four games however, the team's numbers have started to stabilize somewhat, highlighted by three particularly solid outings. That improvement in play has manifested on the scoresheet as well, with the Avalanche having won twice in a row for the first time this season coming into tonight.
They may still be league's worst possession team in terms of score-adjusted shot attempts percentage, but they aren't without talent. If the Canadiens allow the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, or Jarome Iginla to get going, they'll find that their opponents have enough firepower to take care of business.
Of course, if the Avalanche are working the element of surprise, they'll have to cede the element of timing. With Gabriel Landeskog suspended for his shot to the head of Brad Marchand, the base of skill the Avs rely on will be a little smaller tonight.
Last Time Out
These two teams matched up similarly when they met last December, and the outcome ultimately ran in Montreal's favour. Like tonight, the Canadiens entered that game as a heavy favourite, but bogged down by unforced errors, the Avalanche stayed close until late in the game.
A defensive zone breakdown put the puck on the stick of Daniel Briere, who walked out front and sniped past Carey Price. A similar breakdown left Ryan O'Reilly uncovered, giving the Avs their second goal. Then, most embarrassingly, an ill-advised pinch in the offensive zone gave the Avalanche a 4-on-1 break heading the other way, culminating in a third goal.
Thankfully, the Canadiens have some skilled players of their own, and beautiful shots by P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty ensured that Colorado's 3-2 lead would not prove fatal to Montreal's chances.
Despite the impressive pedigree of the Avalanche's top players, and the momentum they've gained in their first two games of the week, the Habs have no business losing tonight. If they can play another one of the clean, fast, and aggressive games that they've made their trademark, another two points would be unsurprising.