It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The offence on the Montreal Canadiens showed much-anticipated signs of life against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, as both Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk got on the scoresheet, but Carey Price was distinctly average. Ultimately, it was Auston Matthews who took the spotlight as the Leafs recorded the 4-3 overtime win.
Now the Canadiens embark on their customary California road trip with a 1-3-1 record, facing a barrage of criticism from all sides, and still mired in an early-season run of bad luck.
Awaiting them is a San Jose Sharks team facing struggles of its own. The Sharks have only a single victory in four matches, and just dropped a 3-1 decision to the New York Islanders where they heavily outshot and outchanced the opposition but could not solve a resolute Thomas Greiss. The burden of this start to the season has fallen firmly upon the shoulders of head coach Pete DeBoer, but underperforming veterans Logan Couture (1G, 0A, -3), Joe Pavelski (0G, 1A, -3), Brent Burns (0G, 1A, -6), and Joe Thornton (0G, 1A, -4) have not escaped the glare of the spotlight either.
How to watch
Puck drop: 10:30 PM EDT / 7:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|0.31||5v5 goal ratio||0.44|
Both Montreal and San Jose have struggled to put up offence this season, but it is the Canadiens with the superior underlying metrics. The Habs are ninth in the league in score-adjusted Corsi-for percentage, compared to 27th for the Sharks. The difference is slightly greater when comparing adjusted shots-for percentage, with Montreal seventh and tonight’s opposition 28th.
Despite the loss to the Maple Leafs, the Canadiens saw offence from the aforementioned young forwards, from the blue line, and from the moribund power play — all positive trends moving forward.
A struggling Sharks team presents a prime opportunity for the Habs to build upon the offensive momentum of the previous game. The West Coast road trip typically hasn’t been kind to the Canadiens, who have won just once in a combined nine games over the last three seasons.
The 2017-18 Sharks aren’t the same team as the one that went to the Stanley Cup Final a mere two seasons ago. Roster turnover and the natural aging curve have created a team in a state of transition, and the Sharks’ struggle to find a winning formula is documented in the tangle of line combinations and defensive pairings already trialed this season.
But these Sharks still have teeth, and Carey Price and the rest of the defence will do well to heed the firepower that the likes of Couture, Burns, and Pavelski can bring on any given night. The Canadiens netminder will especially be looking forward to putting a subpar performance against Toronto behind him.
So far this season, the Habs have had a difficult time putting all of their ducks in a row. When the offence has been going, the defence has stumbled, and vice versa. A complete effort from all facets Tuesday night at the SAP Center will go a long way toward not only ratcheting down the heat from the press and public, but establishing some level of confidence amongst the team.