In most cases, the first game with California in the rear-view mirror would come as a relief. The three Californian teams tend to be heavy, skilled squads, and it’s rare of late that even one of them doesn’t have a semi-legitimate Stanley Cup aspiration.
Sunday’s win over the Kings may have given the Habs two more points than they typically earn in the western U.S., but the Canadiens still didn’t put forth a full effort in any of their three attempts. Now, with a stop in Missouri on tap for tonight, things aren’t about to get any easier.
How to Watch
Puck drop: 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT
In the Canadiens region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the Blues region: FS-MW
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|51.18||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||51.97|
|1.31||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.93|
The St. Louis Blues are talented and deep, and may end up being the most difficult opponent the Canadiens face on this 10-day-old road trip. Their fourth line is nothing to write home about, but Ken Hitchcock seems to recognize that and tailor their usage accordingly. Otherwise, the Blues don’t seem to have much of a weak spot.
Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko are among the league’s best young guns, and they’ll each work to pace the Blues’ offence. Veterans Paul Stastny, David Perron, and Alex Steen round out a dangerous top six.
And Dmitrij Jaskin, Jori Lehtera, and Patrik Berglund are each extremely useful in third line roles, playing up in the lineup when required and helping to create a 1-2-2a-type situation in the Blues’ top-nine. The Blues simply don’t let up, as exemplified by the fact that only a single Blues top-nine forward (Steen) is under 50% in even-strength SCF%.
You might remember the Blues’ top pair from Team Canada’s entry in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where national program favourites Alex Pietrangelo (the Blues’ newly-minted captain) and Jay Bouwmeester each represented their country. The duo handle the majority of the defensive ice for their club team, but Colton Parayko has seen his role increase after a pretty impressive rookie season.
Behind all of them is Jake Allen, who finally has the crease all to himself with Brian Elliott’s offseason departure. Allen has been an average number one goaltender so far this year, at least in terms of save percentage, but that should be more than enough to give the powerful team in front of him a good chance to win every night.
The Blues have a great stable of talent, are well-coached, and above all else, are balanced. It’s ironic then, that the team that will step onto their Scottrade Center ice tonight has just suffered an important blow to their core.
Alex Galchenyuk is fundamental to everything the Canadiens have tried to do offensively this season, both at 5v5 and on the powerplay, but this isn’t a reprisal of Carey Price’s absence last year. The Habs can lean on Alex Radulov’s abilities to keep their offence moving, not to mention their other top-line talents in Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. And even though the four goals he gave up on Sunday were uncharacteristic, there remains no better insurance policy than the one in Montreal’s crease.
Galchenyuk’s injury is disappointing, and will be more than that if it turns into a long-term concern. In the mean time, though, his team should still be expected to find ways to win.
Facing one of the league’s toughest squads, that starts tonight.