The Montreal Canadiens lost their win streak. They didn't lose their momentum.
Their performance on Tuesday was about as dominant as one could ask, but did not yield a full two points. Playing one of the Eastern Conference's more successful squads, they'll look to reprise their role as aggressor again tonight.
While there's little doubt that the team would be well-served to give Alexander Semin another opportunity, tonight's game will mark another chance for Devante Smith-Pelly to prove he belongs with his new, skilled linemates. With that second line moving well but not scoring regardless of the right winger, a game against a team the Canadiens had no trouble scoring against last year may be just what the doctor ordered.
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Tale of the Tape
|53.1||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||49.2|
|1.82||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.95|
Know Your Enemy
The Islanders took a huge step forward last season, in no small part due to a pair of clever off-season acquisitions. By bringing in Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, General Manager Garth Snow was widely lauded for acquiring a first defensive pair without taking away from his NHL roster.
But while that pair buoyed their team to the playoffs last year, they're still in the process of finding their footing this year. While Calvin De Haan and Travis Hamonic have done yeoman's work to carry some of the load at even strength, any weakness in the Isles' defence corps can only benefit a Montreal team that seems to have three lines scoring at any time.
On the front lines, the Canadiens were lucky to avoid the scoring talents of Mark Stone and Clarke MacArthur when they took on the Sens. Unfortunately for the Habs' chances (but fortunately for fans of great hockey), it looks like the Islanders primary weapon is progressing toward being able to play.
John Tavares was suffering from an apparently confounding illness, ultimately diagnosed as the flu, which kept him out of the Isles' last few games.The former first overall pick was a full participant in Wednesday's practice, however, which may put him on track to suit up in Montreal.
Even if Tavares can't go, the Habs will still have to look out for the trio of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen, and Kyle Okposo. Despite manhandling their opponents to the tune of almost 67% possession, the offensive production hasn't come yet for that group yet.
That said, the line has generated 59 scoring chances so far, so it's probably fair to save they're due to improve on the two goals they've scored at even strength. Given that all three players have a history of scoring against Montreal, it'll take a special effort from the Canadiens to ensure that their renaissance does not take place tonight.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens managed to shut down the Isles last time out, limiting them to just one goal while scoring three themselves. Unlike tonight's game, though, the win came on the heels of a stretch of wretched hockey for Montreal, as they had lost 5 of 6 games going.
Alex Galchenyuk, in particular, distinguished himself by forcing the Islanders back all night, most notably when he engineered the rush that culminated in Tomas Plekanec's score-opening goal. Lars Eller, another Canadien whose offence the Habs could use tonight, set-up the second goal, pick-pocketing Michal Neuvirth and handing a tap-in to Max Pacioretty.
Bailey struck back for the Isles on a powerplay he drew, but that was a close as New York would get, with Eller scoring on an open net in the game's waning moments to salt away the victory.
The most notable moment from that game may have been Carey Price's viral selfie with a fan, but the most significant take-away was Montreal's success in sticking close enough to a strong opponent to ensure that the game remained in their control.
Factoring in the Isles step back in possession, and the Habs' own leap forward, the Canadiens should be able to do even more than that tonight.