Heading into the bye week, the Montreal Canadiens were on a two-game winning streak and some were thinking that this was a positive change moving into the second half of the season. Since then, they have played three games, and dropped each of their decisions, going 0-1-2.
The Canadiens (18-21-6) played their first game after the break against the Boston Bruins last Saturday, and despite a comeback effort, they lost 4-3 in a shootout, and also went down a centreman when Phillip Danault was forced out of the game with an injury.
Two nights later, the Danault-less Habs hosted the New York Islanders, and despite coming back from two separate two-goal deficits, the Isles took the game 5-4 in overtime when Isles’ captain John Tavares scored his second of the night to seal the victory.
The Habs then travelled to Boston for a rematch game against the rival Bruins, and it appeared the game would be a change for the team. On the first shot of the game, rookie defenceman Jakub Jerabek scored his first career NHL goal past Tuukka Rask. However, the Bruins came back hard, and wound up taking the game 4-1.
Carey Price has played all but one game since returning from injury, but with a home game at the Bell Centre on Saturday night, he may get the evening off tonight.
Tale of the Tape
Washington (28-14-3) has been playing some great hockey as always, winning four of five since starting 2018. They have been atop the Metropolitan Division for the majority of the season; a position in which they have found themselves quite often in the last few seasons. Although they usually finish high in the standings, it’s when the post-season rolls around where the Caps crumble under the pressure.
Their offence is led by the usual players: captain Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ovechkin is currently leading the NHL with 28 goals, and in his career currently has 586, good for 20th all-time. He is also two assists of recording 500 in his career.
Their goaltending has been led by Braden Holtby over the last six seasons, taking home the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goalie in 2015-16. Through his 33 games this season, he has come away with 24 wins, which is good for second-best in the NHL, only to Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Montreal and Washington have only faced off against each other once this season, way back in October. The Canadiens trekked to the US capital in the second game of the season, and got shellacked. Within only 46 second, the Canadiens already found themselves behind 2-0. By the end of 60 minutes, Montreal was on the wrong side of a 6-1 decision, with the Great 8 scoring four of the goals.
The Canadiens will have the advantage of a day off for tonight’s game, while Washington will be playing on back-to-back nights after facing the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
Time is running out for the Canadiens to have any hope of salvaging the season, and a win tonight in the first game of their back-to-back set is critical to any post-season aspirations.