On Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens were forced to deal with one of the NHL's most potent offences. Tonight, they're tasked with reining in one of the NHL's worst.
The New Jersey Devils have enjoyed some exceptional goaltending, with Cory Schneider's play making him one of a very small group of goalies who can claim to have been in even the same universe as Carey Price this season. Their back-up, Keith Kinkaid, has made only 13 starts, but has managed above average numbers in that time.
The Devils have been much less productive at the other end, however, and for that reason, the team will not be headed to the postseason.
This is Montreal's fourth last game, and their schedule is divided evenly between teams with something to play for and teams that are just playing out the string. With even the Devils' draft position close to solidified, the Habs adversary tonight falls firmly into that latter category.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet360
In the Devils region: MSG+
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
Before last night's games.
|48.5||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||46.2|
|1.16||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.95|
Know Your Enemy
Jaromir Jagr may be 43 years old, but he was still producing at a solid second line level. And while he would make for a reliable supplementary scorer in most organizations, he was the cream of the crop in New Jersey.
His totals, including his time with the Panthers, would put him at the top of the Devils scoring list. Without him, the Devils suffer from a serious lack of firepower.
Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri are the two only two players in Red and Black who will clear forty points this season. Another pair, Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez, may well end up as the only other players over thirty.
The team's roster is full of players who have produced in the past, but whether it's bad luck, declining skill, or simply a lack of team cohesion, the Devils have failed to produce with any consistency this year.
That leaves the team reliant on Schneider for any hope of victory, and tonight, the Habs will have the distinct advantage of facing a vulnerable team without their insurance policy.
The Habs have played the Devils twice so far this year, earning a 10-4 combined score and four points in the standings. While one of those goals was scored with no goalie in net, the other nine have come against Kinkaid. The 25-year-old has earned both starts against Montreal this year, and that streak will continue this evening.
Kinkaid's taking to the crease means that unless the Habs can chase him, the Canadiens will go three full games against New Jersey without having to contend with their best player.
Last Time Out
Kinkaid made the Habs look like a high octane offence last time out, as they managed an impressive six goals. The total matches their highest output of the season, a feat they have accomplished five times in 2014-15.
The Devils entered the game looking like a beatable team, and Montreal confidently confined them to that category. Not unlike last night, P.K. Subban could not be stopped, spurring his team to an unrelenting advance on the overmatched Devils. Subban put up three points on the night, giving him six on the season series. While the Devils briefly closed the deficit to 3-2, the first line of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, and Dale Weise made sure that New Jersey wouldn't get any closer. In the end, the Habs took a 44-23 advantage in the shot column, underscoring a convincing effort on the scoreboard.
With tough games looming against the Red Wings and Panthers, and then one final exhibition against the Maple Leafs, the Canadiens are running out of chances to practice before the games really matter. Facing a team they've had success against this year, the Habs would do well to take advantage of another opportunity to build some momentum.