The Canadiens spent some of the early part of the month of January facing off against some of the best of the Metropolitan division. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that their penultimate game of the month will come against one of the Metro’s poorer squads. Enter the New York Islanders.
This year’s Isles have failed to live up to the standard set by last year’s team. They sit near the bottom of their division and have played to some of the worst possession numbers in the NHL. With the pressure mounting, General Manager Garth Snow saw no choice but to make a change, firing long-time Head Coach Jack Capuano.
With former team captain Doug Weight now running the bench, the Islanders are out to prove it’s not too late to save their season.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the Islanders region: MSG+
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.93||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||46.99|
|1.29||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.12|
As of January 24, hockeyviz.com rates the Isles’ playoff chances at 21%. With the bottom-nine teams in the Eastern Conference basically all vying for the same playoff spot, the stakes are quickly increasing. Under Weight, the Isles seem to understand that, showing some signs of life by winning three of their past four games.
In each of those three wins, the Islanders scored at least three goals, staying in character as one of the league’s better offensive teams. Going back into the final three games of Capuano’s tenure, the Isles are averaging 3.7 goals per game over their last seven.
Not surprisingly, much of the offense runs through the top-line duo of John Tavares and Josh Bailey, and Tavares underscored this point with his goal against the Habs in his team’s 3-2 loss back in October. That goal was scored on the powerplay, but that’s not usually how the Islanders take care of business. Tavares’s team is in the top-ten in even strength goal-scoring, but as Snow likely noticed before signing Capuano’s walking papers, boasts one of the league’s poorest powerplays.
Ultimately, however, New York’s biggest problem this season is their inability to suppress shots. Starter Thomas Greiss, who’ll take to the crease this evening, has given his team some stellar play, but that hasn’t kept his team out of the league’s bottom-ten in goals against per 60 minutes of play.
Some of the players the Islanders are supposed to be able to count on are at the heart of this problem. Travis Hamonic is in the midst of a definite down year, and now finds himself on the IR. Fellow defensive stalwart, Nick Leddy, also had a rough start to the year, and even though his numbers are starting to even out a bit, he’s still allowing shots to reach Greiss at an alarming rate.
The Habs’ top line needs no introduction, but if the bottom-nine can complement their contributions in the way that, say, Sven Andrighetto did against Calgary, the Canadiens should be in great shape to expose the Islanders before settling in for the NHL’s version of the midsummer classic.
And if the Islanders D can’t rein in the Montreal forwards, they may soon find that the middle of their season passed some time ago.