Less than a week has passed since the Canadiens and Panthers last met at the Bell Centre, with the result that evening being a 6-2 rout that would clinch a playoff berth for the Habs.
Days later, the Habs travel to Sunrise in hopes of a repeat; this time with an opportunity to lock up the Atlantic Division title and a likely first-round playoff matchup with the New York Rangers.
A four-game win streak has seen the Canadiens shoot ahead in the division race, while four consecutive losses have led to the Senators dropping to third behind the surging Maple Leafs.
With four games in six days to close out the regular season this week, the Habs will have little rest heading into the post-season. Of course, with the momentum they’ve been riding since the beginning of March, that might just be a positive.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet East (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: FS-F
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.58||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||50.57|
|1.22||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.80|
It’s a different story altogether in Florida, where the Panthers are looking to snap a four-game losing streak tonight on home ice. After being eliminated from playoff contention by the Habs last time out, however, at this point games mean little for anyone but players with something to prove.
The Canadiens were all over the Panthers last week, and it was reflected on the scoreboard. A 6-2 win was a fitting scoreline for a game the Habs managed to take control of, and one that has doubtlessly added to the confidence of a team that is rolling into the playoffs.
Of course, the Panthers weren’t helped by their goaltending situation on that night, as both Roberto Luongo and James Reimer remained sidelined. Luongo was hopeful for that game but is now still out days later, leaving us to wonder if the Panthers would prefer to let him sit out for the remainder of the season with more to play for next year.
If that is the case, the Habs may once again be up against Reto Berra, who has struggled as Florida’s third-string option. Failing to win a game in six appearances this year, Berra has an .870 save percentage and a 3.54 goals-against average, considerably worse than the duo he has been relieving.
In more bad news for the Cats, they may be without Aleksander Barkov as well this evening as he remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The 21-year-old has put up 52 points in 61 games this season, just behind Vincent Trocheck for the team lead.
Tonight’s contest will be one between two teams now in opposite states of mind. The Panthers focus now shifts to an off-season of analyzing what went wrong for last year’s division-winners, while the Habs gear up for a tough first-round playoff meeting. It’s a cruel irony for the Panthers, with the fate of both teams flipping over the course of a single year.