The Montreal Canadiens have been the most dominant team in the league this season when considering results alone. Still, despite having won 25 of a possible 28 points to start the year, there has been no shortage of criticism for the ways in which the Habs have been winning hockey games.
On Thursday night, the Canadiens took a big step toward remedying that with a convincing win over the Los Angeles Kings. Tonight, as they play host to the Detroit Red Wings - sitting eight points behind in the Atlantic Division - they will attempt to take another step forward.
Winners of two-in-a-row are the Red Wings, who had dropped five straight prior to their current run. Finding themselves jockeying for position within the division, the Wings have been prone to criticism for many of the same reasons the Habs have been - playing a poor possession game and relying too heavily on their goaltender.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Red Wings’ region: FS-D
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
The Red Wings have been near the bottom of the league in possession stats this season, though it hasn’t held them back too much as of yet. The rest of their game, outside of the play of Jimmy Howard, has been decidedly average. When you lack control of the puck as often as the Wings do, though, at some points something has got to give.
|49.10||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||47.05|
|1.82||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.31|
Detroit suffered a blow offensively when Thomas Vanek was placed on the long-term injured reserve list, as the Austrian was off to a hot start with 8 points in 7 games. In his absence, Mike Green has stepped up from the blue-line with a team-leading 10 points thus far. Joining Green at the 10-point mark are Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist.
The return of Niklas Kronwall, meanwhile, has provided the Wings with a bit of a boost. The Red Wings alternate captain missed the first 11 games of this season, and picked up his first point of the year on Thursday night. Coach Jeff Blashill had been watching his minutes carefully at first, but there’s no doubt his presence adds some stability to the Red Wings’ blue-line.
Jimmy Howard has indeed been sensational in Detroit this year with a league-leading .961 SV% after seemingly taking the reigns away from Petr Mrazek. Tonight, however, Howard will likely look across the ice to see Carey Price, who has been unshakable dating back to last season.
As two teams who allow more shots against than any others in the NHL, this game may be won and lost on the strength of the goaltending at either end of the ice. What makes this such a tough one to predict, of course, is that at this point, the goaltending could not be much stronger.