Saturday afternoon's performance at the Bell Centre brought back visions of what once was; the Habs looking similar to the way they did in more promising times — namely, the way they looked in October.
It remains to be seen whether the Canadiens' commanding 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers was the spark the team has been waiting for, or if it was merely a flash in the pan. On the bright side, we need not wait very long to find out as they take to the ice for their second game in as many days for the final game of the annual Super Bowl weekend series.
As the sporting world patiently awaits kick-off at Levi's Stadium, the Canadiens will gear up for what is sure to be a tough test in the Carolina Hurricanes, who are now just barely outside of the playoff picture. There will be no shortage of motivation on the Hurricanes side, as a win could see them move into a tie for a wildcard spot.
The Habs, though, aren't too far behind. Saturday's win means they're just four points back themselves, so all hope has not yet been lost. If they have a repeat performance in store, things may suddenly be looking just a little bit brighter.
Two hockey teams sitting outside of the playoffs are far from the biggest sports spectacle that will be played on this day, but the implications are high for both sides. Montreal and Carolina are two teams that can't afford to lose many more games, and each should show up with a sense of desperation at puck-drop.
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Tale of the Tape
|53.2||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||53.0|
|0.97||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.88|
Know Your Enemy
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Carolina is a team on the rise, having won three of their past four games with a number of those victories coming in dominant fashion. The Hurricanes have scored five goals in a game on three separate occassions over that stretch, which is disconcerting at minimum for a Habs' team that has had trouble keeping the puck out of their net.
The 'Canes offence is one of tremendous balance, with the team boasting no fewer than six players with 30 or more points on the year. One such player is 22-year-old Victor Rask, who is building off of an impressive rookie effort in 2014-15 with 31 points so far this season. Kris Versteeg has also been a focal point of the team's production, recording 34 points thus far in his first year in Carolina.
The team is also getting significant contributions from both Jordan and Eric Staal, the latter sporting the best CF% (at 57.11) on what has been a very strong possession team.
On the defensive side of things, there is little doubt that Justin Faulk is the man running the show. The 23-year-old is a two-time All-Star and is already competing in his fifth NHL season. With a team-leading 34 points, Faulk has unquestionably been the leader of the Hurricanes on both ends of the rink this season. In addition to Faulk, Noah Hanifin has all the potential to grow into an elite-level blue-liner in time, though the rest of the 'Canes defense is suspect with the likes of Ron Hainsey and John-Michael Liles getting no younger.
The real downfall of the Hurricanes season has been the performances they've gotten between the pipes. The duo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack has not been a good one this season, as the Hurricanes have been the victims of the second-worst save percentage in the entire league this season. Despite that, they find themselves within two points of a wild-card spot in the East. If their goaltending can become a bit more reliable, this becomes a team that must be respected.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens were a team on the verge of collapse in early December when these two teams last met. While a one-goal loss to the Hurricanes was frustrating at the time, the impending free-fall down the standings the Habs would suffer soon after was unfathomable. Yet, here we are.
Daniel Carr got the Habs off on the right foot early in the game, scoring his first NHL goal on his first NHL shift, lifting the bleu-blanc-et-rouge to a 1-0 lead. The lead would fade before the end of the period, however, as Jeff Skinner found the puck on his stick right on the door-step to score his sixth goal of the season.
The Canadiens would restore their lead midway through the second period, thanks to a slick pass from Petry that Sven Andrighetto was able to poke past Cam Ward. It was all downhill from there, unfortunately, as Joakim Nordstrom tied things up for the 'Canes before Jeff Skinner's game-winning goal in the third period.