Ready for this? The Montreal Canadiens are on a winning streak!
When the Canadiens returned to the confines of the Bell Centre after a terrible western road trip, doom, gloom, and anger followed them. Now, after three victories in four matches, the mood is a little lighter and brighter around the team.
A large part in this is the fact that the offence has finally started to find the back of the net. With a combined 18 goals against the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and Ottawa Senators, the Habs more than doubled their goal-output on the season. Better yet, all four lines are clicking. Max Pacioretty (3 plus a shorty), Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen, Brendan Gallagher, and Charles Hudon (2 each) all have multiple even strength goals during the stretch. “Fourth-liner” Alex Galchenyuk has also contributed with a power-play marker and an even strength tally, and now joint-leads the team alongside Gallagher and Paciretty with four goals.
Of course, things are far from perfect for any team with a 4-7-1 record, and the Canadiens are still having difficulties keeping the puck out of their own net. A strong performance against Florida was dampened by a shellacking at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings and four goals against versus the New York Rangers. The penalty kill in particular has been the Achilles’ heel of the team. It allowed the 4-1 goal in the Rangers game to give the Blueshirts life, then followed that up by allowing two power-play markers in three attempts to keep the Senators in the game longer than necessary.
How to watch
Tale of the Tape
|0.65||5v5 goal ratio||1.06|
The Canadiens will look to maintain their momentum as they again head westward - this time into Minneapolis. In a sharp contrast to last year, where they put up a franchise record 266 goals for en route to the division title, the Wild’s offensive struggles this year are on par with those of the Habs. Even more surprising for a Bruce Boudreau-coached team, Minnesota has slumped mightily with regard to driving puck possession, moving from a respectable 50.3% CF (18th in the league) last year to their current 47.4% (26th).
Minnesota is largely driven by familiar faces in Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu, but their leading scorer is, surprisingly, Chris Stewart (6G, 2A). A large part of the Wild’s offensive issues is that Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter have yet to get going, each having only an assist to their name so far this campaign. On defence, Ryan Suter may be the one blueliner leaned on more heavily by his team than Shea Weber, and he and Jared Spurgeon are the backbone of a defensive corps that is fifth-best in the league in score-adjusted even-strength goals allowed.
With Al Montoya tending the net against the Senators, Carey Price is expected to return to the cage on Thursday. Facing him will be a well-rested Devan Dubnyk, who also returns to the net after Alex Stalock played against Winnipeg on Halloween.
For Minnesota, this game is the fifth of a six-game homestand, with mixed results thus far. Victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders were matched by defeats to the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
Perhaps the team in green can take solace in that they’ve won twice and lost none against Eastern Conference opponents at home this season - something that the Canadiens will look to rectify as they seek their first point against a Western Conference opponent this season.