When a losing streak crosses a certain threshold, the reasons behind it cease to matter. The Montreal Canadiens seem to have crossed that threshold.
The quality of the team's play over their past four games has been worthy of probably five or six points. In claiming zero, however, the team has sent all those invested in their organization, inside and out, searching for solutions.
There are trades to be cooked up, and lines to be juggled. There are goaltending debates, and prayers to the gods of rehabilitation. But, lost in the hand-wringing, is a very real barometer of this team's quality, lying just over the horizon.
The Canadiens are mere games away from a veritable death row, in which they face six of the NHL's best teams in the span of 11 days. Those games, with Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher likely to remain out of the lineup, will offer the type of perspective on this team's station that recent convincing, but ultimately unsuccessful, performances cannot.
The fact is that, if Montreal continues to assert its will against inferior teams, the points will come. With another team not quite at Montreal's standing in town, tonight represents another opportunity to bear that concept out.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): TVAS
In Canada (English): CBC, CITY
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.8||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||46.2|
|1.28||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.06|
Know Your Enemy
The Senators also suffered a costly loss within the division in their last game, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. The Sens are in the thick of the Atlantic Division, fighting head-on with teams like the Red Wings, Bruins, Lightning, and Panthers to stay in the playoff picture. In the same way that Montreal needs to finally earn a victory to keep a step ahead of Detroit, the Senators also need a win to keep up with the Joneses.
While the same problems exist at the bottom of their D corps as have persisted for some time, Ottawa is now coping with a new challenge: a severe lack of depth amongst their forwards. Injuries to Clarke MacArthur and Milan Michalek have deprived Ottawa of the services of two well-relied-on forwards. Replacements, like Curtis Lazar and Dave Dziurzynski have failed to acquit themselves in relief. Combined with built-in handicaps, like the presence of Chris Neil, and bizarre stop-gaps, like putting Mark Borowiecki on the fourth line, the bottom of the Senators' forward group has been in disarray.
Fortunately, for fans of hockey in the nation's capital, the top of the lineup has more than made up for any offensive deficiencies. The last few games have been low-scoring for the Sens at even strength, but on the whole, the likes of Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris have been nothing short of dominant. If the Canadiens want to stop their skid, those four players will require special attention.
Last Time Out
It was Turris wielding the dagger last time out, taking advantage of an ill-advised Max Pacioretty pass to ice the game in overtime. Turris' goal restored a previous Ottawa lead, created by Jean-Gabriel Pageau's customary goal off the rush. Dale Weise tied things up on a slick passing play, and the two goals combined were all these teams could manage until Turris struck in the extra frame.
The overall effort from Montreal was solid, but despite carrying the run of play for long stretches, the Habs were unable to crack Craig Anderson to blow the game open. In that way, the Habs' last loss to Ottawa would have fit in well on their current losing streak.
That irony may be cruel, but with their losing streak lengthening, the Canadiens must find a way to turn the narrative in their favour. The players in the Habs' lineup right now are more than capable of winning tonight, a fact demonstrated during the majority of these last 240 minutes of hockey. It's time to set aside the bad luck, injuries, and line-juggling to focus on what this team does best. Tonight, it's just about winning.