It wasn’t so much that they lost on the West Coast - that had been occurring for years - it was the manner in which the Canadiens did so. Their penalty kill was ravaged by the San Jose Sharks, the team simply capitulated in the third period against the Los Angeles Kings, and in a must-rebound situation, the Habs came out of the gate utterly flat against the Anaheim Ducks. The end result: 0-3, five goals for, 17 goals against.
The Panthers started the season in very much the same manner as the Canadiens. Bad luck undermined strong play as the Cats limped to a 2-4 record in their first six games. In an illustration of what a single game can accomplish, a 4-1 win against the Washington Capitals meant that the Panthers arrive in Montreal with a respectable 3-4 record, instead of as a 2-5 team only a single point ahead of the struggling Glorieux.
How to watch
Tale of the Tape
|0.30||5v5 goal ratio||1.14|
The Panthers are powered by their big four: local boy Jonathan Huberdeau (3G, 4A), Vincent Trocheck (3G, 4A), Aleksander Barkov (2G 4A), and newcomer Evgenii Dadonov (2G, 5A). Complementing these are a renewed Radim Vrbata (5A) and a surprising Jared McCann (2G, 3A). On the back end, Aaron Ekblad (2G, 3A) continues to assert himself as one of the best defencemen in the league, forming a slick puck-moving duo with the veteran Keith Yandle. Beyond these individuals Florida is hard-pressed for depth, with the bottom six forwards generally playing no more than 12-13 minutes a game at maximum.
Carey Price will get the nod for the Canadiens, and likely face-off against James Reimer in place of the injured Roberto Luongo. Newly recalled Nikita Scherbak and Michael McCarron will likely make their Montreal season debuts with Ales Hemsky on injured reserve.
But this game isn’t about personnel. It will be more about which version of the Montreal Canadiens will take the ice on Tuesday evening than the capabilities of their opposition. The Canadiens are capable of playing good hockey - the second period in Anaheim, the first period in Los Angeles - but they are also capable of falling apart at a single bad bounce.
At the moment, no one is safe in Montreal. Not the captain, not the franchise goaltender, not the star defenceman, not the coach, and not the general manager. In this maelstrom, the Canadiens will need to keep their heads and play a solid 60 minutes of hockey.