The Canadiens have played a few bad teams lately. The New Jersey Devils are mostly bad, save for their top line and Cory Schneider. The Columbus Blue Jackets are mostly bad, too, and can't always count on Vezina-quality goaltending to bail them out. They do have some talented young forwards, however, and young talent playing well will usually buy you a few wins, unless you're the Edmonton Oilers.
The Carolina Hurricanes, at face value, look like they belong in the same group.
With 20 points, the Hurricanes find themselves neck-and-neck with the Blue Jackets, bringing up the rear in the Eastern Conference. Should their current level of success continue, the Hurricanes would find themselves within four points of the division basement for the third consecutive year.
The Hurricanes, like a handful of usual suspects playing in the same conference as Montreal, are achieving some fairly poor results. But the process, intriguingly, is different.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|53.7||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||53.5|
|1.35||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.67|
Know Your Enemy
Unlike the non-Carolina teams mentioned above, the Hurricanes are excellent at 5v5. In fact, ranking just a fifth of a percentage point below the Habs in that department (even strength shot attempts percentage, score-adjusted), Carolina is a top-five possession team in the NHL.
As we saw in contests against the Habs last year, the Hurricanes can move the puck effectively, and are reasonably adept at creating scoring chances. While perhaps not so evident in the games against Montreal, the 'Canes really shine in their own zone, suppressing scoring chances with the best of them. While many recent Montreal opponents rely on other factors to make-up for poor even strength play, their opponent tonight won't have that issue. Unfortunately, they tend to struggle just about everywhere else.
The powerplay? Worst in the league. The penalty kill? Second to last. Team shooting percentage? Bottom-five! Goaltending? They're, uh, lacking.
PDO can be a good proxy for puck luck, but talent can drive percentages, too. If the Canadiens can give Mike Condon a little bit of run support, they should be in excellent shape.
Last Time Out
When these two teams last played each other, the Habs gave Carey Price four goals. He didn't need them.
The Canadiens jumped out to a two-goal lead in the early going, thanks to the net-front handiwork of Dale Weise, and the lethal skill combination of Brandon Prust and Manny Malhotra. They then proceeded to unapologetically sit on that lead, allowing the Hurricanes to gradually ramp up the pressure. Thankfully, Carey Price being Carey Price, it was all for naught, as the Habs would add a pair of insurance markers to salt away their shutout victory.
The Habs should be more than capable of producing a similar result against Carolina tonight, even without the world's best goaltender to make certain of it. It may be counterintuitive to strive to replicate an effort that resulted in a loss, but emulating their play against Washington is exactly what Montreal should do tonight. If Cam Ward or Eddie Lack come out looking like Braden Holtby, then, well, so be it.