The two teams came in with similar possession numbers, each near the top of the league in that category. Their even strength scoring was in the same ball-park, as well. And even the outcome of that game, a 3-2 affair won by the Ducks, might have supported that perspective.
Three weeks later, there's no mistaking the cold, hard truth. Whatever playoff hopes Montreal may have been clinging to when they last met Anaheim are gone. The Habs team that entered that game was already a pale imitation of the squad that took the ice on opening night, but since then, the Tricolore have had to make do without P.K. Subban, Brendan Gallagher, Mark Barberio, and others.
The effects have been acute, illustrating the Canadiens' unmistakable dependency on a few very capable players to cover up their otherwise fatal flaws. While their historic collapse through December, January, and February was akin to falling down a few flights of stairs, the team now appears to be dropping straight down the elevator shaft, waiting to find the bottom.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|51.8||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||53.3|
|0.92||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.93|
Know Your Enemy
The Ducks, meanwhile, continue to assert themselves as cup contenders. The team went on a mini-losing streak just after their win over the Habs, but have since regained their traction, winning in three of their last four outings. In fact, during that stretch, the Ducks managed seven goals in a thrashing of the New Jersey Devils. Coincidentally, that's more than Montreal has scored in its last five games combined.
The offensive outburst came almost exclusively at even strength that night, with the Ducks scoring six goals at evens before capping off the night with a man advantage marker. Heading into tonight's game, however, the Ducks' powerplay might be even scarier than their 5v5 potential.
Already one of the most effective units in the league, the Ducks have been red-hot on the powerplay this month, allowing them to overtake the Washington Capitals for first overall in that department. Scoring almost as many goals on the powerplay as Montreal allows on theirs, the Ducks have added another element to their already imposing game.
Last Time Out
So while the outlook for tonight may seem bleak, it's worth recalling that the Canadiens at least put up a fight when these two teams last met.
On the positive side, the Habs saw great performances from defenders Greg Pateryn and Morgan Ellis, who each made solid mental and physical contributions to the game. Perhaps after watching the Ducks operate, the Habs managed to get a good cycle going on their powerplay, too, though they were ultimately not rewarded.
Best of all was, without question, the play of Alex Galchenyuk. The sensational fourth-year forward scored twice in the game, tying things up at one with his patented one-timer and giving his team a brief lead with a deceptive wrister off the rush.
The Ducks would not allow the lead to stand, however, demonstrating again that Montreal's big names are too often its only shot at victory. When no other Canadien could get on the scoreboard, and with Carey Price not available to play closer, the Ducks rallied and took the game in the shootout.
It's an odd form of dysfunction that leaves one wanting for a game lost in a shootout, crushing their team's playoff hopes in the process, but after watching their team roll over and playing dead in both halves of their weekend back-to-back, Habs fans don't have much to cling to. If the Canadiens can replicate their effort level from three weeks ago, it would be a welcome respite from a season that can't end quickly enough.