The Montreal Canadiens began their back-to-back Super Bowl matinee weekend with their second consecutive 1-0 victory. A great effort on Thursday night against the third place team in the Metropolitan Division, the New York Rangers, was followed up with a not-so-great showing against the team posing the greatest threat to take over that seeding, the Washington Capitals.
Both are defensively-sound opponents that were able to limit the scoring opportunities against, allowing just one goal each to the Canadiens. With the way Carey Price has been playing all season, that one goal proved to be enough to secure the two points from each game and keep pace with the other hot teams at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
The Arizona Coyotes are not a defensively-sound team. Only the Buffalo Sabres have allowed their opponents more goals this season. This afternoon's game should offer a chance for Montreal to open the taps and fill more than one line of the scoresheet.
How to Watch
Start time: 1:00 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In Canada (English): City
In the Coyotes region: Fox Sports Arizona
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|49.1||5v5 Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||47.9|
|1.22||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.65|
Know Your Enemy
Yesterday afternoon, the Ottawa Senators did just that, scoring seven even-strength goals on Arizona despite being outshot 37-31. Mike Smith exited the game after stopping only 75% of the 20 shots he faced in just over two periods. His replacement, the right-gloved Louis Domingue, surrendered two more in the third.
On the season, Smith has an all-situation save percentage of an underwhelming .888. His five-on-five save percentage ranks 28th among the top 30 goaltenders by time on ice.
The offence hasn't come much easier for Arizona, which sits fourth-to-last in goals for per game this season. The ever-steady Keith Yandle once again leads the team in points, with Mikkel Boedker and future-Hab (if you believe the rumour-mongers) Antoine Vermette not far behind, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson is second on the team in goals. Otherwise, the team doesn't have much in the way of offensive weapons.
The high pick in the 2015 entry draft that Arizona will receive if they maintain their position around 28th in the overall standings could help to remedy that situation in the coming years, not to mention the boost the team is anxiously awaiting once Max Domi arrives in the desert.
Last Time Out
The last time the teams met, the Montreal Canadiens were taking on the Phoenix Coyotes on the road the day after the 2014 NHL trade deadline. It was Thomas Vanek's first game with the Canadiens after he and his expiring contract were acquired from the New York Islanders.
The game was Montreal's third of a four-game Western Conference road trip; their second game in two nights. The night before, Dustin Tokarski had made his Canadiens debut — his first start in nearly two years — in an impressive showing against the Anaheim Ducks that Montreal won despite being outplayed.
Peter Budaj had been temporarily given the starter's job after Carey Price sustained/re-aggravated an injury at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and was back in net after a night off. He was looking to get the Canadiens' 10th consecutive win over the Coyotes in a span that stretched over a 15-year period.
It doesn't take long for Douglas Murray to make his first appearance in the highlight video below, as a point shot deflects off him and into the net less that two minutes into the first period. Facing a 3-1 deficit in the second period, Montreal finally converted their fourth powerplay opportunity of the middle frame to get it back to 3-2. But two more goals by the Coyotes in the middle of the third sealed the 5-2 win for a team in a late-season battle for a final playoff spot.
Montreal outplayed the Coyotes in the game, but the result did not reflect the effort. With the performance Tokarski had put in the night before against a much-better Ducks team — and won — the conversations began over whether Tokarski had what it takes to be the backup to Carey Price. This two-game sample may have been what gave Michel Therrien the confidence to go with Tokarski in the playoffs over Budaj, which was rewarded when Tokarski played well against the Rangers in relief and ultimately led to the win of the backup role for the 2014-15 season.
(apologies to Cirno if she's reading this)
While the Arizona Coyotes daydream about the future, the Canadiens have a great opportunity to take two points from under their noses and extend their win streak to six games.