With the season’s fifth week nearing its end, the Montreal Canadiens are coming off their best two-game stretch of the season. With their toughest opponent looming, their improved play isn’t coming a moment too soon.
The Chicago Blackhawks enter tonight’s game with 19 points, good enough for first in the Western Conference. Prior to Friday night’s loss to the Washington Capitals in extra time, the ‘Hawks were on a seven-game winning streak.
Chicago didn’t play last night, and extra rest may come in handy. The Habs may have dispatched the Red Wings with relative ease, but their overnight travel to the Windy City will likely make the Blackhawks the fresher team.
How to Watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT
In Canada: SN (English)
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
Tale of the Tape
|49.10*||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||49.95|
|2.15||5v5 Goal Ratio||2.00|
*Montreal’s score-adjusted Corsi Percentage does not reflect yesterday’s game against Detroit.
The trip to Chicago marks Andrew Shaw and Phillip Danault’s returns to the city of the franchise that drafted them. While the real value of the draft picks given up to obtain Shaw remains to be seen, Danault is the only relic of his deal that will take the ice for either side tonight. Dale Weise, of course, signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, while Tomas Fleischmann remains unsigned by any NHL team after being released from Minnesota Wild camp.
As far as other notable returns, tonight will also be the first time Al Montoya will take the crease since that memorable debacle in Columbus. Montoya had been nothing but solid prior to that ten-goal loss, and as has been widely acknowledged in the aftermath, the rout was hardly Montoya’s responsibility alone. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if he is on top of his mental game as he gets back onto the ice, and can help to equalize the advantage that Corey Crawford would otherwise offer his team.
On special teams, tonight’s contestants come in with similar numbers as far as efficiency on the powerplay and penalty kill. In fact, it’s likely that both teams are better than on the penalty kill than their numbers would have you believe. Subtract the Columbus game and Montreal’s road efficiency on the kill looks much like their home value around 86%, which would place them in the league’s top-10. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have allowed only one powerplay goal in their last seven games, but the ridiculous 15 they gave up in their first eight contests makes their numbers look ugly.
If the Habs want to wrap up their week on a high note, they may have to find a way to break the Blackhawks’ kill open again. The Canadiens’ even strength play has improved this week, but with Artem Anisimov likely to return, the Blackhawks should be able to match the four-line depth that has propelled Montreal to its most recent success. A boost from their special teams, however, may be just enough to allow the Tricolore to pass their toughest test to date, even without their most important player.