A second night. A second game. A second divisional opponent. But for the Montreal Canadiens, there cannot be a second loss.
In horrifying fashion, the Canadiens watched as a well-earned victory floated away on a rogue wave less than 24 hours ago. Last night's game did, however, create some momentum going into tonight.
The Habs, for the vast majority of the game, manhandled their opponent. Tonight, they'll need to marshal a similar effort if they're hoping to achieve the result that evaded them yesterday.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|54.0||Score-Adjusted Corsi %*||51.7|
|1.30||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.20|
*Statistics prior to last night's game vs. Boston.
Know Your Enemy
The Detroit Red Wings we knew last year had a strong identity: suppress shots to ease the load on Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, and rely on the powerplay to get some offence in response. With an injection of skill into lineup, however, that identity has changed somewhat.
The Red Wings are a still a top-notch shot suppression team, but are giving up even fewer goals at even strength this season compared to last. The goaltending platoon of Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard has given the Wings some of the best team goaltending in the league, with Mrazek offering some especially distinguished play so far this year.
On offence, the presence of Dylan Larkin has allowed Jeff Blashill some flexibility in how he manages his lines. The top line of Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, and Henrik Zetterberg continues to be the most productive, but the the middle-six is worth watching out for, too. Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Tatar are a latent scoring threat, with Tatar on-pace to top 60 points again this season, and Nyquist trending toward 55. That leaves a pair of veterans, in Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Richards, to handle tough minutes, while also providing the occasional points.
With the improved output at even strength, however, has come a steep decline on special teams. The league's second-ranked unit last season has careened all the way down to 22nd, despite generating similar scoring chance numbers. The loss in productivity is currently worth about 24 goals over the course of the season, cancelling-out the uptick in even strength output.
Nonetheless, with an 11-game point streak in progress, and their possession numbers on a steady upward trajectory, the Canadiens are set to face a Detroit team playing its best hockey right now. When these two teams met two months ago, it was a different story.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens caught Detroit in the midst of a rough start, in which the Red Wings lost five of their first eight games to start the season. Montreal, meanwhile, was a perfect five-for-five at the time, and headed to Joe Louis Arena looking for a sixth straight regulation victory.
The Canadiens got that victory, and like George Costanza's new addition to the Guggenheim, it didn't take very long, either. With some dominant even strength play, especially during the third period, and the aid of some timely powerplay work, the Habs earned a 4-1 win.
Dylan Larkin got his team on the board first, sending a centring pass through Carey Price's legs and across the goal line. Brendan Gallagher appeared to tie things up on a contentious tally, and after a lengthy review, the officials deemed him successful. Jeff Petry was next, taking advantage of an early third period penalty with a rocket from the point, giving the Habs a lead they would not give up.
Of course, just to drive home the point, the Habs would add two more. Brendan Gallagher took advantage of a Mike Green turnover near Mrazek's goal line, and quickly directed a pass to a net-front Plekanec. The Czech centre made no mistake, potting what would have been the game's final goal if not for an empty-net effort in the waning seconds, courtesy of Brian Flynn.
This is not the same Detroit team that the Canadiens caught off guard in early October, but unfortunately, the Habs don't have the luxury of allowing the Red Wings to return the favour this evening.
The Detroit Red Wings have eyes on moving toward the Atlantic Division's top spot. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and even while missing key contributors, tonight is an excellent opportunity for Montreal to remind their original six rivals of their place.