Tuesday night saw the Montreal Canadiens come by something that has been fleetingly rare these past few weeks - a win.
A 3-2 shootout victory over the New York Rangers was just the second win of the month for the Habs - the other also coming after regulation in Arizona. Now, with Atlantic Division rivals quickly catching up, the team looks to win consecutive games for the first time since January 7th.
The new year has been unkind to the Canadiens, but until recently some losses were excusable given the cushion gained from a hot start. That cushion has now faded entirely, and if the Habs are to even remain in a playoff spot - let alone the top of the division - .500 hockey is not going to be good enough.
The New York Islanders, meanwhile, will look to prevent the Habs from finding any sort of consistency. Entrenched in a playoff battle of their own, the Islanders sit just outside the wild card, which is somewhat surprising given their weak start.
With a hugely important divisional match-up coming on Saturday, the Habs can hardly afford to falter in this one. No points are meaningless, and with the Senators and Leafs holding games in hand, the pressure is officially on.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: MSG+
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.74||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||47.95|
|1.21||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.08|
At one point this year, few could have expected the New York Islanders to be competing for a wild card spot in late February. The loss of Kyle Okposo was a major concern, and a lack of early scoring signaled that moving past the winger was a mistake.
Now sitting sixth in the NHL in even strength goals, however, the Islanders have responded with an outburst of scoring.
Unsurprisingly, John Tavares has been the key player in Brooklyn this year - making the indecision around his future in New York a bit worrisome for Islanders fans. With 50 points in 59 games, Tavares is not having his best season statistically, but he has done as much as could be expected with the help hes received.
While Tavares has been responsible for the bulk of the offence, Josh Bailey has emerged as a real threat in the Islanders’ top six. With 41 points this season, the 27-year-old Bailey is on pace for the best year of his career, helping to replace the offence of Okposo.
Between the pipes, the Islanders have leaned on Thomas Greiss, who assumed the starting role last season when Jaroslav Halak went down to injury. A back-up for the majority of his career, Greiss took full control of the reigns after Halak was sent to the AHL this season and hasn’t looked back - his .918 SV% equal to that of Carey Price.
Having won three of their last four games, the Islanders have had better fortunes than the Habs as of late. If they can keep that good run going, it could deal a considerable blow to the Canadiens’ chances of retaining the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
These teams last met just a month ago, with the Isles coming up victorious - a result Claude Julien and co. would love to avenge this evening.