They got a goal early, and it wasn't even from their first line. They got a second goal; immediate production from their recent call-up. And with a lengthy break preceding the game, they had time to prepare. Their performance was far from perfect, but finally, it was enough. Tonight, they need to accomplish the same thing.
Like the Leafs, the Blue Jackets lack offensive punch, and with Ryan Johansen gone, their offence is even less threatening. With the playoffs still a few points away, the Canadiens need to find a way to help themselves again.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|53.5||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||47.1|
|0.98||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.82|
Know Your Enemy
The Blue Jackets may not be playoff contenders in 2015-16, but few NHL organizations can claim to have had a more eventful season.
Sergei Bobrovsky's cold start cost his coach his job, and his recurring injuries hamstring his new one. With back-up Curtis Mcelhinney also on the shelf, the Jackets are down to their third stringer, Joonas Korpisalo, who is only 10 NHL games removed from Finland's SM-liiga. Columbus' roster is one that requires more than just-below-average goaltending to stay competitive.
In theory, Montreal should expect a team with less offensive punch, but a more defence, following the Johansen-Seth Jones swap. And while Jones immediately teams with Ryan Murray to give Columbus a young, strong first pair, the damage that the loss of Johansen does to the Blue Jacket's offence outweighs Jones' contributions.
The line of Johansen, Boone Jenner, and Nick Foligno was John Tortorella's only consistent threat back in December, as the three forwards hemmed in P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov and scored their team's only goal. Montreal was fairly dominant otherwise, though, and no obvious candidate jumps out as capable of reprising Johansen's role.
The trajectory of this organization's future depends heavily on the ability of likes of William Karlsson, and Alexander Wennberg, to generate offence. With the Habs focused on locking down Scott Hartnell, Brandon Saad, and Jenner, that pressure on the young secondary players will be amplified even further tonight.
Last Time Out
While each team's first line was the greatest difference makers last time out, it was the Habs' fourth line that got things going. Paul Byron, Christian Thomas, and Brian Flynn broke out three-wide, and with the puck on Thomas' stick entering the Columbus' zone, he lobbed it out front into Byron's vicinity. The speedster made no mistake, pouncing on the puck and propelling it past Bobrovsky. With Byron injured, and Thomas now property of the Arizona Coyotes, that fourth line will have a different complexion this evening. Torrey Mitchell, who was injured at the time, and Devante Smith-Pelly will substitute for the absent pair.
The Blue Jackets equalized before the first period was out, as Foligno capitalized on his line's pressure by banking in a wrap-around off of Mike Condon. The period ended with a lengthy penalty kill, as Alexei Emelin was given the game for interfering with Matt Calvert.
The second period was unproductive, most notable for a Foligno knee on Tomas Fleischmann. Nathan Beaulieu stepped up to defend his teammate, but took the worst of the bout. The Canadiens will need a more score sheet oriented contributed from Beaulieu this evening, as his pairing with Mark Barberio give his team a great chance to exploit the bottom of Columbus' line-up.
In the end, it was Max Pacioretty who came up clutch, burying a powerplay marker past Bobrovsky in the third. Mike Condon and co. would make the 2-1 lead stand-up, coming away with a one-goal victory.
When the Canadiens last beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was their final victory before their season careened into an abyss. With their playoff chances hanging in the balance, the Habs need another win tonight.