The Montreal Canadiens' season has been over for awhile, so it isn't much of a shock to the fanbase to see the mathematics finally confirm it. What may be more concerning, however, is the fact that the Habs seem to be winding things down with a good deal of time still on the clock.
The Habs have allowed at least three goals in seven of their last eight games, winning only two of them. The goaltending, while still spotty, has been hung out to dry, with the Canadiens' rag-tag defence struggling to insulate their crease.
Tonight, the Habs need to be better. Playing one of the league's least productive offences, after having seen them less than a week earlier, the Tricolore should be in position to finally stymie an opponent.
Of course, doing that is easier said than done. And if effort level is allowed to become another variable in the Habs' defensive equation, along with their systems (all season) and personnel (more recent) problems, they may end up making the Red Wings of 2015-16 look like the Red Wings of 2007-08.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|51.4||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||52.0|
|0.93||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.96|
*All stats before Monday's games.
Know Your Enemy
The Wings, meanwhile, should be at max effort. The odd team out in the East, heading into the regular season's penultimate week, Detroit must make the most of their remaining six games. With each team on their season-ending slate still playing for something, with the exception of the Maple Leafs, the Red Wings won't have it easy.
If they're going to make the playoffs, they'll need their goalies to find their form. Petr Mrazek's play was promising at times this season, but he's been shaky in recent starts. Jimmy Howard's struggles, meanwhile, now span multiple seasons. The Red Wings allowed 16 goals over their three games last week, an unacceptably high figure for a team not known for scoring itself.
That brings us to the offence. Four Habs, including Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, and P.K. Subban, have more points than co-leading Detroit scorers Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. While part of that is due to injury (Datsyuk has missed 16 games this season), it also speaks to a lack of depth on the attack.
The bottom half of Jeff Blashill's lineup has been toothless, and has left the first-year coach looking for novel solutions with his season on the line. That puts greater pressure on new additions to the lineup, like Anthony Mantha or Andreas Athanasiou, to contribute early in their careers.
Last Time Out
The Red Wings had no trouble getting on the board last time out, scoring four goals before the Habs could get their feet under them.
One of the depth players Detroit needs more from, Riley Sheahan, was first on the board. Sheahan stopped a shot with his foot, just in front of Ben Scrivens, before corralling the puck and placing it between Scrivens' pad and glove. The play was made possible by the hard work of Gustav Nyquist, a top-quality player than Blashill can afford to flex down in his lineup due to Mantha's presence.
Next up was Curtis Glendening, who banged in a rebound after a flurry in front of Scrivens. Athanasiou planted himself at the top of the Habs' crease, banging away and briefly occupying multiple Canadiens' defenders. That left enough space for Glendening to deposit his team's second goal.
It didn't take long for the Wings to get the next one, as Pavel Datysuk sent Sheahan in alone by deftly lifting the stick of rookie Mike McCarron as he attempted to play the puck. Sheahan made no mistake, going top-shelf from his forehand against an overmatched Scrivens.
And finally, perhaps saving the best for last, there was the first goal of Mantha's NHL career. With his family looking on, Mantha slipped behind the Canadiens' penalty kill box when Greg Pateryn stepped up to cover for a discombobulated forward pair of Pacioretty and Plekanec. Scrivens made the initial save despite Mantha's screen, but there was no player in white available to stop Mantha from popping in the rebound and making it 4-0.
The Canadiens would stage a desperate rally, scoring three goals and doing their utmost to make it four. Mrazek held strong, however, giving the Habs a second straight loss.
The three-goal third would have been encouraging, had it not come on the heels of a second period that saw Montreal unravel completely in the face of some moderate adversity. If the Canadiens want to salvage a tie in the season series tonight, they'll have to do better than that.