The Habs have now dropped four straight games, and eight of their last ten. Monday night's loss was particularly difficult to swallow as the team surrendered five goals (including an empty-net goal) on just 19 shots. The patience of the Canadiens' players, and certainly that of their fans, has been tested in the past number of weeks, and needless to say the team will be anxious to finally snap out of it tonight.
Of course, that is easier said than done. Thankfully, the Canadiens have continued to control play in most of the games throughout this stretch - albeit with nothing to show for it. In the Minnesota Wild, the Habs will find a team that has, overall, been playing some solid hockey recently and who will be motivated to break out of a bit of a losing streak of their own, as they've now dropped two straight.
A three-day break from play awaits the Canadiens after tonight's match-up, and a win, at long last, would be a nice way to begin the holiday season. In any event, a few days off will hopefully do some good for a team that desperately needs something to go their way.
The Wild are not an easy team to run up the score against, though after watching the Dallas Stars do just that to them on Monday night, perhaps the Habs can strike while the iron is hot. Only time will tell.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|54.0%||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||49.8%|
|1.16||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.24|
Know Your Enemy
The Minnesota Wild have not been an easy to handle as of late, though they have now lost two straight games. Still, the Wild had won three straight before that, and did so by scoring at a wicked pace. As a result, the Wild sit 4th in the Central Division and are poised to continue moving up with games in hand on their rivals.
The Wild have had an average-at-best offense throughout most of the season thus far, but they have recently found their form and are having no trouble putting pucks in the net at present. The catalyst for this has been their captain, Mikko Koivu, who carried a four-game point streak into last night's game against the Dallas Stars, who finally held him off the score-sheet after he tallied nine points in the previous four contests.
Thomas Vanek, who has spent time with a number of different linemates this season, has been paired up with Koivu recently to great mutual benefit. With 24 points in 32 games, thanks in part to a four-point performance against the Canucks a week ago, Vanek has continued to be a top point-producer for the Wild.
The cause for concern with Vanek relates to his possession numbers, which have been far from pretty. Vanek has a 46.3 CF%, a rating of -3.3% relative to his team. The Wild will hope that continued success with Koivu - who has been the Wild's leader in possession stats - will help Vanek turn things around.
Where the Wild have really shone this season is in their own zone. Led by Ryan Suter on the blue-line, the Wild are a stingy team who are not easily scored on. Suter, along with Jared Spurgeon, have been particularly good for the Wild this season, with 20 and 16 points respectively to go along with a CF% Relative of 3.5% and 1.5% respectively - showing, unsurprisingly, that the Wild are a better team with their top pair on the ice.
In net, the Wild boast a tandem of Devan Dubnyk - who surprised the hockey world with his player last season - backed up by Darcy Kuemper, who the Habs will likely face tonight. Statistically, Kuemper has been the better of the two with a .922 SV%, though with far fewer games played.
The Wild are not a team to be taken lightly, and the Habs will find in them a difficult opponent, especially given the struggles the team has already faced in trying to score. The Wild do not give up many goals - with the notable exception of last night's 6-3 loss to the Stars - and so the Canadiens may find it difficult to make tonight the night they finally break through.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens and Wild have not met on the ice since December 3rd of 2014; that game featuring a closely contested battle between goaltenders Carey Price and Kuemper.
It didn't always look like it would be a close game on the scoreboard, however, as Jason Zucker would net the first goal of the night just 19 seconds into the opening frame. Jason Pominville scored the only other goal for the Wild later in the second period, as Price turned aside all of the other 33 shots he faced.
Two would prove to be enough to best the Habs on that night, however, as they could only beat Kuemper once as a result of a lowly 19 shots on goal. That goal came very late into the game, with Alex Galchenyuk putting the puck past the Wild netminder in the final minute of play. Of course, the Habs did themselves no favours in this one, taking five penalties including a five-minute major in the third period.
The Habs will, of course, be hoping for a much different result than they got last time against the Wild. In order to do that they will need to find a means of scoring, which seems to be the story of every game as of late. They will likely once again need to find a way to do it against Kuemper as usual starter Dubnyk played against the Stars last night.