After a five-goal performance against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, with many of the team’s top players responsible for the offensive outburst, it was hoped that the Montreal Canadiens’ offence had finally turned a corner. A shutout loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday proved that the Habs don’t have things figured out just yet.
Their attempts to put their goal-scoring woes behind them aren’t going to get any easier tonight, as the New York Rangers — the team responsible for the Canadiens’ first goalless game of the season — visit the Bell Centre on Saturday.
The Rangers earned a 2-0 win over Montreal in the third game of the season, in a similar fashion to how the Kings recorded their shutout last time out. The Canadiens outshot New York 34-25, with the line of the Charles Hudon, Tomas Plekanec, and Artturi Lehkonen leading the way with a combined 11 shots on target, but were unable to get one behind Henrik Lundqvist.
The Habs put 40 shots on Jonathan Quick in their last game, and forced the Kings goalie to make some great saves to earn his shutout. Max Pacioretty launched eight of those 40 shots, one less than the total he registered against the Anaheim Ducks at the end of the California trip, and has put 20 shots on target over his previous three games.
The captain is trying the brute-force technique to bust out of his goal-scoring slump, and while it has meant a lot of shots into the body of opposing netminders, once a few of them start to go in, the perennial 30-goal-scorer should begin to find the scoring touch he’s shown for six consecutive seasons.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet One, Sportsnet Now, City (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the United States: NHL Network, MSG
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
The Rangers haven’t exactly been lighting the NHL on fire this season either, with a 3-6-2 record through their first 11 games. Normally one of the league’s top defensive teams, the Blueshirts sit in 27th place in goals against with 37; one spot higher than the beleaguered Canadiens defence.
They have been more proficient at putting pucks behind opposing netminders than Montreal, scoring 30 goals on the season, though that still ranks among the final third of NHL teams.
The team’s top goal-scorer has been Mika Zibanejad, with six goals on the season, and a group of players with three tallies following at a distance. Four of those goals have come on the man advantage as the Swede has single-handedly pulled the Rangers’ power play into respectability.
The Canadiens could very well get a chance to work on their own man advantage in tonight’s contest, as New York has been one of the more undisciplined teams in the NHL this season, averaging about four minor penalties per game. Killing off just over three quarters of them means they’ve been allowing about one goal to their opposition per game while down a man.
To find success the Canadiens will need a better alignment for their five-on-four units. The criticism of the captain’s inability to score this season wasn’t helped by his position at the right faceoff dot in the last game, with several flubs of one-time shots that would have been comical were the goal-scoring situation not nearly so desperate.
The hope with the addition of Jonathan Drouin in the off-season was that the power play would become more dynamic, but the Canadiens remain one of the least-efficient clubs while playing with an additional skater. Placing players in spots where they can thrive, and have shown they can do in the past — like Shea Weber at the top of the left faceoff circle and Alex Galchenyuk in the right — could go a long way in helping Montreal use the easiest on-ice situation to solve their offensive issues.