On June 29, 2016, the Montreal Canadiens completed the franchise’s most significant transaction of the last 20 years.
Since the consummation of said trade, there’s been endless analysis of each player’s individual talents. There’s been debate over their contribution to the team dynamic. And that’s not to mention the conversation around the respected standing each player held in the only NHL city they had ever known. There’s nothing I can add in this space that would benefit that discussion.
Suffice it to acknowledge, then, that even with eight months for the Canadiens and their fans to have moved on, there’s still an unmistakable gravity about tonight’s game. Even if the Habs find themselves matched up against the Leafs or the Bruins in the playoffs, or find a way to knock off the Penguins or Capitals further on, or compete for the Stanley Cup itself, it’s hard to imagine a game this season feeling bigger than this one.
And until another player like P.K. comes along, that’s a reality that just might not change anytime soon.
How to Watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the Predators region: FS-O
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale Of The Tape
|52.63||Score-adjusted Corsi %||51.31|
|1.17||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.08|
Subban, sidelined by a back injury, missed his first opportunity to face off against his old team. The Canadiens defeated the Predators in early January, making good on the return of Shea Weber and Alexander Radulov to Nashville. The effort was one of the team’s best during that time period as they controlled possession against a solid opponent and allowed one just one bad-luck goal against.
Subban’s presence tonight figures to heighten the challenge for the Tricolore this time around. He owns the best possession numbers among his team’s defencemen and has found himself on the scoresheet regularly of late, scoring 12 points in his last 10 games.
Even hotter is Subban’s teammate, Filip Forsberg. The 22-year-old has registered an unfathomable 14 points in his last six games, a total higher than the season point totals of all of Montreal’s trade deadline acquisitions (save for Dwight King’s 15) and a solid handful of Canadiens regulars. Playing the wing beside Ryan Johansen and opposite Viktor Arvidsson, Forsberg’s trio will be Nashville’s most significant threat this evening.
Further down the lineup, the Habs will get a look at another former teammate for the second time this week. P.A. Parenteau joined the Preds in a trade deadline deal with New Jersey, and with 27 points in 59 games (a total amassed while playing in the Devils’ hapless offence), should offer his new squad some solid depth for their playoff run.
On the Habs’ side, Claude Julien has a brigade of new, defensively-minded additions to deploy to slow down the likes of Parenteau. It’s clear that there are more bodies than roster spots available, but it should be interesting nonetheless to get a sense of how King, Steve Ott, and Brandon Davidson fit into the Canadiens’ equation, not to mention one-game veteran Jordie Benn.
It remains to be seen if Marc Bergevin has done enough to give his team a chance to contend, but that doesn’t matter now. With the poetic sense of timing befitting his patented one-timers, the team that Subban will face in his return to Montreal is the final evolution of the one with which his former general manager has placed his chips.
The moves of yesterday’s trade deadline are Bergevin’s final act in making over his team in the pursuit of success, the culmination of eight months’ work. Lining up against the player who was the embodiment of success during his time in Montreal, that team will face its first test tonight.