On a typical day, a statement win over one of the league's strongest teams would be front page news for the Montreal Canadiens. On Tuesday, it was the statement they made earlier in the day that truly resonated.
The Canadiens will play their first game of the post-Sekac era tonight, as the young Czech was shipped to California in exchange for Devante Smith-Pelly. The ensuing 40 hours have borne a great deal of hand-wringing and debate, but now, what's done is done.
Michel Therrien is likely to slot his newest asset into the lineup tonight, and the space mostly recent occupied by Jiri Sekac looks like a good place to start. Sekac's most frequent position was the right wing beside Lars Eller and Brandon Prust.
The ability to wreak havoc behind the opponent's goal-line is one of Smith-Pelly's best attributes, and the 22-year-old will almost certainly be counted on for his potential ability to finish around the net. Eller and Prust may not be Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but on a team desperate for secondary scoring, Smith-Pelly should get plenty of opportunity to generate some offence against Columbus.
Sekac and Smith-Pelly are producing at similar rates this year, but in a change of scenery trade like this one, the goal is always to find the right fit for a valuable asset. With P.A. Parenteau on the shelf, the Habs need a right-winged scoring option that isn't Brendan Gallagher, or putting their burgeoning superstar of a centre on his off-side. Marc Bergevin obviously feels that Smith-Pelly can fill that role, and tonight will represent the General Manager's first opportunity to be proven correct.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|49.3||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||46.1|
|1.19||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.78|
Know Your Enemy
The Blue Jackets that we saw last weekend gave a pretty good approximation of what the team is. They're at times talented, explosive, and physical, but seem to lack the depth to create a cohesive lineup. Beyond Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno at the top of the lineup, no other trio possesses enough tools to be truly dangerous.
The Canadiens will need to look out for the speed of Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson, and they may also see Todd Richards try to divide and conquer by separating his two top scorers. If the Habs can handle the three line deep Blues, however, they should be able to shut down the Jackets, too.
For the final 46:57 of last week's game, Curtis McElhinney often stood on his head, keeping the Habs within Columbus' striking distance. With Sergei Bobrovsky still on the sidelines, McElhinney also played the second half of Columbus' weekend back-to-back, where his team eventually succumbed to the Rangers in a shootout. Despite facing well over 30 shots per game against relatively strong competition, McElhinney has allowed an average of only two goals against over his last four starts. On the year, Columbus is one of only six teams that has allowed three or more goals per game, but the backup goaltender is doing his best to change that.
Last Time Out
The loss that the Canadiens dealt Columbus last weekend spurred a three game losing streak for the Blue Jackets, and Montreal will have a chance to extend it to four.
The game played out a lot like the Habs most recent win, as it involved one of the team's best offensive talents staking the squad to an early lead the team would not relinquish. In the case of the Columbus game, Max Pacioretty blasted two quick goals past McElhinney, giving the Canadiens all the offence they would need before the first period was out.
The second goal was the result of a remarkable display of patience and vision on the part of Nathan Beaulieu, who glided toward the Columbus net before putting a sharp pass directly onto Pacioretty's tape. Remarkable work from the former first round pick defender is becoming a trend, as the Strathroy, Ontario native has responded well to the increased responsibility he has been handed. He is the leader of the contingent of young players that has helped the Canadiens to make their recent statements, and tonight, that group will be on hand to witness the opening address of its newest member.