Just a game removed from being blown out by the hottest team in the NHL, the Habs will try their hand tonight against the NHL’s next hottest club.
The Chicago Blackhawks went the entire month of February losing just a single game, which, coincidentally, came at the hands of the same Edmonton Oilers the Montreal Canadiens defeated on Sunday evening. With wins in each of their first three games of March, as well, Chicago had won 12 of 13 before suffering back-to-back losses to the Red Wings and Ducks last week.
Still, the team promptly rebounded with a win over the West-leading Wild, and now just one point back of their Minnesotan opponents (and with the Wild set to face the powerhouse Capitals next), the Blackhawks have a great opportunity to vault into first place in their conference with 13 games to play.
How To Watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM ET / 4:30 PM PT
In the Canadiens region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the Blackhawks region: CSN-CH
In the United States: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv, NHL Gamecenter
Tale Of The Tape
|52.46||Score-adjusted Corsi %||50.27|
|1.17||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.22|
While the stakes may be high for Chicago, they’re even higher for the Habs. If the Canadiens wish to win the Atlantic (which they may not, given the state of the Metropolitan), they’ll need more wins to hold off the ascendant Ottawa Senators. To get one of those wins this evening, they’ll look to exploit some of Chicago’s weaknesses.
Chicago has received good goaltending from Scott Darling when down a man this year, but the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has given up a ton of shots, amounting to one of the league’s poorer units overall. Now, with Darling nursing an upper-body injury, it will likely be up to Corey Crawford to play better than his below league average track record when one of his teammates is in the box.
The Chicago powerplay follows a pattern opposite of their penalty kill, and opposite to the Canadiens’ formula as well. The Blackhawks powerplay, especially the top duo of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, generate shots with ease when playing at 5v4, but can’t seem to convert. That puts the ‘Hawks’ production at a below average 18.8%, and with the Habs’ kill finding its’ footing of late, the Canadiens may be able to neutralize one potential avenue of offence for Chicago.
That won’t be so easy at even strength. The Blackhawks produce shots at the same level as many of the league’s elite offences, and Kane and Panarin are each among the league’s top-16 scorers. Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews’s 48 points would place him second on the Canadiens in scoring, between Max Pacioretty (who just trails Panarin) and Alexander Radulov, and Marian Hossa (recently playing on the third line with youngsters Tanner Kero and Ryan Hartman) has never had an issue scoring against Montreal.
It’s been a while since the Habs have beaten the Blackhawks, but the blueprint for their success may lie in their execution in that most victory, which came all the way back in January 2014. Carey Price played a stellar game, but more importantly the Canadiens limited Chicago to just 20 shots, setting the stage for an Andrei Markov game-winner in OT.
If the Habs can keep tabs on the Blackhawks big guns tonight, stop the Hawks from breaking out on special teams, and get another strong effort from Price, they’ll set themselves up to stop Chicago from stretching their winning streak in this series to seven.