The Canadiens, seemingly, need focus. Naturally, they got a distraction.
While his charges were travelling to Missouri, thinking of what could have been as they failed to pull off a victory against one-quarter of the NHL's Central Division Mount Rushmore, Marc Bergevin was busy putting the finishing touches on an unexpected swap. The loss was depressing, and the trade baffling, but the Canadiens may have some reasons for hope.
Bergevin's handiwork will have no effect on his team's game-day roster tonight, but by diverting attention away from the team, the circus it created may have brought a collateral benefit. That third period against Chicago was the type of effort that might allow them to knock off an elite opponent, and even better: they're getting to that elite opponent at just the right time.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): TVAS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
In the Blues region: FS-MW
In the United States: NHLN-US
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.2||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||52.1|
|1.05||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.02|
Know Your Enemy
The St. Louis Blues are formidable; still every bit the threat they appeared to be when the Habs faced them back in mid-October. For what it's worth, however, the team is mired in their worst stretch of the season.
The Blues have lost six of their last eight games, including tripping up against the middling likes of the Hurricanes, Leafs, Avalanche, and Senators. Like their last meeting with Montreal, the Blues are also dealing with some key injuries, starting with defenders Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson. Alexander Steen is also day-to-day, with his potential absence threatening to tear a hole in what is ostensibly St. Louis's first line.
Having strung together a few faltering efforts, the Blues don't need more problems. Three of their last four games have resulted in possession numbers totally uncharacteristic of St. Louis's standing as one of the league's most competitive squads, and Thursday night's effort against Carolina may have been the worst of the four. Nonetheless, their forward depth, even if Steen can't go, makes them a perpetual threat.
Jori Lehtera is flanked by one of the NHL's most dangerous snipers, Vladimir Tarasenko, and rookie Robby Fabbri, whose 20-goal pace might make him a dark horse Calder Trophy candidate were it not for an exceptionally strong rookie class. That line takes attention away from players like Paul Stastny and David Backes, each a capable scorer in their own right. And for once, it looks like the Canadiens will have to deal with blue-line offence of Kevin Shattenkirk, who missed each of the last two meetings between these teams with separate injuries.
Last Time Out
The Blues could have used the extra boost from Shattenkirk last time out, as the Habs controlled the game and emerged with a convincing 3-0 victory. Carey Price made a couple of outstanding saves, and his shutout was full value, but as the Canadiens continued their perfect start, the skaters in front of the superstar goalie did plenty to earn the win.
Max Pacioretty opened the scoring, bouncing a Tomas Plekanec wrist shot past an unsuspecting Jake Allen. The Habs' next goal was one for the record books, as Alexander Semin scored what just might end up being his only goal as a Canadien. And finally, Torrey Mitchell, whose game has gone as cold recently as the Montreal weather , salted the game away, pouncing on a Devante Smith-Pelly rebound to give his squad a three-goal advantage.
As they've done so many times over the last six weeks, the Habs lost another closely contested affair on Thursday night, coming up just short against a well-qualified opponent. But with the Blues sputtering somewhat, and Habs enjoying a rare reprieve from the media thanks to some bizarre business dealings, maybe circumstances are turning in Montreal's favour.
With nowhere to go but up, there's nothing to do but hope that the Canadiens are getting what they need to finally put a stop to their slide.