The losing streak is over. The regression, hopefully, is not.
The Canadiens blew the doors off the Senators in the first period on Saturday, and were able to coast to a win. With only three goals to show for their work, however, the Habs probably deserved better. Their 42 shots included many high quality chances, and the Habs could have clicked multiple times on the powerplay if not for Craig Anderson, some poor puck luck, and some barely imperfect execution.
So while the Habs try again to rev-up their offence, the spotlight again will be on Dustin Tokarski. The erstwhile third-stringer has now strung two solid games together, likely cementing his place as starting goalie until he fails or Carey Price returns. Tokarski's two good outings are not necessarily predictive of future strong play, but at the very least, his steady presence will have given his teammates some confidence.
In the Habs are to rely on their usual recipe for beating San Jose, that staunch figure in the crease will be the most important ingredient.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|53.9||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||49.4|
|1.32||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.90|
Know Your Enemy
The narrative surrounding the San Jose Sharks is a familiar one: play hard, lose anyway. In a league that does not allow for ties, however, one team is destined to exceed their recent shortcomings.
For the Sharks, that task will be made more difficult by the absence of their star centre, Logan Couture. Couture has played in only five games this season, with his most recent return from injury cut short after only two games. The effect of his injury undoubtedly trickles down the Sharks' lineup, and while his teammates have picked up some of the slack, the Sharks desperately need someone to finish plays.
The team is riding a huge possession high right now, averaging close to 55% of even strength shot attempts for over their last five games. That number represents a steady upward trajectory from the earliest part of the season, but even as the Sharks push the play better than they have all season, the goals haven't followed.
The team's shooting percentage is in the tank, as the Northern California squad has collectively shot under 4% over their past five games. That precipitous drop mirrors the string of bad luck experienced by the Habs lately, with only Saturday's bounce-back performance against the Sens to differentiate the two teams.
With players at the calibre of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Tomas Hertl, the Sharks' scoring skid won't last forever. But combined with some mediocre special teams, and uninspiring goaltending from both Martin Jones and Alex Stalock, that lack of finish has been too much to overcome of late.
Last Time Out
The Sharks were stymied last time out, as Carey Price put on one of the classic performances of his MVP season in shutting out the Sharks. The Canadiens played a stronger than usual possession game, sticking with the Sharks through period one, and getting rewarded when Alex Galchenyuk threaded a pass to Tomas Plekanec out front.
That was all the offence that the Habs would need, as no other player would put a puck past a goalie for the remainder of the evening. With the exception of the Thornton-Pavelski duo, who manhandled Montreal, the Habs protected their keeper fairly well, and he held the fort until Brendan Gallagher's empty-netter iced the contest.
The Sharks current top line, most recently composed of Pavelski, Marleau, and Hertl, is a force as well, but it will be interesting to see if they can generate the same type of constant pressure that Thornton-Pavelski did last year. If the Sharks don't have a single line able to break the defensively-oriented Jeff Petry/Alexei Emelin pairing, the rest of the Habs should be able to generate enough offence to win.
The Canadiens have one game to go until they embark on the most challenging stretch of their regular season. With a four-game skid not far in the rear view mirror, the Habs would do well to get two more points tonight.