The Montreal Canadiens have been putting themselves in a bad spot.
When a rush-turned-wrap-around ended up with the puck sitting ominously in Mike Condon's crease on Thursday evening, and ultimately turned into an Arizona goal, it continued a streak in which Montreal has allowed each and every one of their opponents to score first, going back to Montreal's last game against the New York Islanders.
On Monday, against Vancouver, the Habs overcame that self-imposed disadvantage. Last night, they could not.
If the Canadiens are to force the Islanders to book-end that streak, rather than extend it, they'll need a little bit of luck and inspiration. Thankfully, the Canadien better than any other at manufacturing those two things is ready to resume his duties.
With Carey Price returning to the Canadiens' crease, the Habs are a different team, and his impact will percolate through the entire lineup. Tonight, the Habs will look to translate his magic into some improved results.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|53.0||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||50.3|
|1.37||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.13|
Know Your Enemy
The Islanders remain where the Habs last found them, in the middle of the Metropolitan Division standings and holding down a playoff spot. The Isles are on a mini two-game winning streak, and will look to make it three by getting some revenge on the Canadiens tonight.
Mike Condon limited the Isles to one goal last time out, but the Islanders a typically a higher scoring team. The Isles are just outside the top-10 in goals per minute of play, but rank in the top-5 for scoring chances generated. If Price is rusty, the Islanders are equipped to expose him.
The Isles get as good as they give though, ranking above only the lowly Flyers in terms of scoring chances allowed. As we touched on when previewing the Habs last contest with the Islanders, the once-revelatory first pairing of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy has yet to find their footing, leaving the defence corps a little vulnerable.
With the Canadiens starting to fall behind a little in the team goal-scoring department, tonight may be a good opportunity to get caught up.
Last Time Out
When these two teams last met, John Tavares was playing in his first game back from a nasty bout with the flu. While he showed no ill effects last time out, he comes in firing on all cylinders this time.
The Islanders' captain has earned six points in his last six games, and will look to put on the type of dominant performance he displayed against the Canadiens two weeks ago.
Tavares was far and away the Islanders best player, putting up over 61% even strength possession and helping to create chances all over the ice. Jack Capuano did a great job of getting his best player out against the Canadiens' third pair of Nathan Beaulieu and Tom Gilbert that night, and Michel Therrien may have to find a way to insulate Gilbert and Greg Pateryn lest Tavares make him regret not doing so.
Conversely, the Canadiens' top players were themselves outstanding. Playing chiefly against a second pair tasked with picking up Boychuk and Leddy's slack, the Habs' first line took Calvin De Haan and Travis Hamonic to the wood shed.
All three members of the top trio were over 70% even strength possession on the night, and Tomas Plekanec was specifically spectacular. The stalwart Czech veteran put seven shots on goal while allowing no shots against Condon, and was on the ice for two Montreal goals.
Those otherworldly possession numbers may be difficult to replicate, but even throughout their recent trend of poorer results, the Habs have shown a knack for consistently driving play toward their opponents.
If the Canadiens can do that tonight, and turn those good habits into a couple of goals, their all-world keeper may just be able to ensure that a little bit of offence is enough.