After a spirited two-game battle versus the Ottawa Senators on the weekend, the Montreal Canadiens came out flat against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. They managed to mount a patented comeback in the third to get the game to overtime, but the desire clearly wasn’t there for an essentially meaningless game, and the Habs fell in overtime.
Tonight’s match is a similar challenge for the Canadiens, facing an opponent outside of a playoff spot. The situation for the Carolina Hurricanes is a bit different, as they still have hope for a playoff berth, but now sit seven points back of the Boston Bruins for the second wild-card spot, and with three teams to pass to get there.
The Hurricanes will be desperate for the win tonight, and that should be the motivation the Canadiens need to play more like a playoff team than they showed in their previous game.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: Sportsnet East (English), RDS (French)
In the Hurricanes region: FS-CR
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.6||Score-adjusted Corsi %||51.4|
|1.19||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.83|
On paper, the Hurricanes looked like a good team heading into the season, with a few skilled forwards and a young-but-effective blue-line corps backing them up. While the team has been one of the stronger possession clubs this season, the goals haven’t matched the time spent with the puck.
The team is 20th in the NHL in goals scored, which perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising given their Moneyball approach to the game, currently with the lowest payroll in the NHL, and by a wide margin: 11% lower than the 29th-ranked Florida Panthers.
The real source of their struggles has been between the pipes. Despite their top-six shot-attempts-for percentage, they are 18th in goals against this season, and 28th at five-on-five.
Cam Ward has played 56 games this year, with just a .904 save percentage, which ranks 42nd among goaltenders who’ve played in 20 games this season. He’s also given up at least three goals in his last seven starts.
In those seven games, however, he has just one regulation loss as the Hurricanes have been able to outscore those woes, posting at least four goals on three of those occasions. With two home wins from Eddie Lack in that period of time (another after four goals scored), the Hurricanes are riding an eight-game point streak, going 5-0-3 since a loss in Colorado on March 7.
The Habs will have to keep a close eye on Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho (each with a four-game point streak going) if they are to avoid become the latest team to allow four goals to the Eastern Conference’s hottest team. Though after matching the Hurricanes’ 15 points over the previous 10 games, there’s plenty of opportunity for the Habs’ offensive players to place their names on the scoresheet, as well.