It hasn’t been an easy month for the Montreal Canadiens, and although a Saturday night victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs provided a needed morale boost, they say goodbye to February with back-to-back games that are of the utmost importance.
The first of those games comes on the road tonight in New Jersey, where the Habs will take on the lowly Devils. Just barely above last place in the Eastern Conference, the Devils represent a real opportunity for the Canadiens to win their first regulation game since January 31st.
Saturday night’s win was a boost for the Habs, giving them some breathing room atop the Atlantic Division. Still, the Senators remain in hot pursuit, making these last couple of games before the trade deadline potentially all-important when it comes to determining playoff match-ups.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 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
|54.01||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||46.36|
|1.18||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.78|
Nearly as bad as the Habs in the month of February have been the New Jersey Devils, who are currently mired in a three-game losing skid. Now sitting far back of the playoff picture, the Devils are very nearly resigned to playing spoiler - a role they could begin to fulfill should they knock off the Habs this evening.
Typically a team that relies on shot suppression as opposed to generating chances, the Devils have failed in both areas this season. Only five teams allow more shots on goal per game than the Devils, who give goaltender Cory Schneider very little help in return for the workload they place upon him.
While the acquisition of Taylor Hall continues to pay dividends, the team’s offence has very little substance behind him. The former Oiler leads the team with 41 points in 51 games, putting him on pace to match his 2015-16 total of 65. Only four other Devils forwards - and one defenceman - have more than 20 points on the year; indicative of their scoring woes.
Damon Severson’s 26 points from the blue-line aren’t necessarily jaw-dropping, but they are impressive for a 22-year-old defenceman playing on an offensively anemic team. Severson has unquestionably become the Devils’ number one defenceman, and has once again been more productive than Adam Larsson, who was of course swapped for Hall.
The Devils’ special teams haven’t been solid, and their 18th-ranked penalty kill is something of a weakness that the Habs man-advantage may be able to exploit. Their power play has been equally bad, meaning the Habs may be able to improve their penalty kill numbers - which are actually still worse than those of New Jersey.
It wouldn’t be fair to say the Devils have nothing to play for. There are still 20 games left in the season, and they’re just eight points back of the wild card. Still, with five teams to leapfrog on the way, it would be no easy feat.
The Habs, on the other hand, are attempting to prevent teams from leap-frogging them: a goal they will only accomplish by winning games with regularity once again. With the month winding to a close, the time to start doing that is now.