The Montreal Canadiens reputedly held a closed-door meeting after their last game. The players needed some time before meeting the media to discuss their loss to the San Jose Sharks; their fifth in a row.
Coming back home after a long road trip was not enough to inspire the Habs to put up a stronger performance. Verbally expressing the bottled-up frustration of what must be several players was probably a necessary exercise.
At this point, anything is good to try to improve the team's performance.
One thing is for sure: the players looked completely deflated after the Sharks took back their two-goal lead on Tuesday, and the overall attitude needs to change. With plenty of time left on the clock, the game would not have been over for most teams. But, this is the Habs we are talking about. Overcoming a lead would involve scoring more than once per game.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Lightning region: SUN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
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The only player able to ignite any kind of offensive spark on the Habs seems to be Brendan Gallagher. He had a few opportunities early in the San Jose game. Had the puck gone in the net, it might have lifted the team's fragile morale en route to a rare victory.
The most important thing going into tonight's game against Tampa Bay is coming out strong and getting the first goal. It's a cliché, but it is critical in the team's state as it would give signification to the meeting they just had, instead of having the team fall back to the dull play that has been a trademark of their games as of late.
The burden of making it happen will likely fall once again on Gallagher, the one guy who has been willing the puck in the net since the start of the season.
What's different about #11's game isn't just that he goes to the high-danger scoring area. He consistently has been one of the best Habs forward at getting in the zone with possession, and he creates opportunities for his linemates by turning to face the play after separating himself from defenders along the boards.
Aside from Gallagher and a few others, Montreal must be one of the worst team in the league at controlled zone entries (skating over the offensive blue line with the puck). This results in their offence having to battle for possession in the opponent’s zone and therefore fewer scoring chances coming off the rush.
In other words, it's not surprising the team has been limited to shots from the periphery; a strong offence starts with efficient transitions.
That’s something the Tampa Bay Lightning could offer master classes on, with a defence group able to quickly feed the team’s rapid forwards.
This season, a Habs-Lightning matchup feels like David versus Goliath. It's likely a lot will have to go right for Montreal to come out of tonight’s contest with a win. Tampa Bay has won eight of their last 10 games and are scoring at will, with a league-leading 3.69 goals per game compared to the Habs’ meagre 2.50.
Teams rarely take coming to the Bell Centre lightly, but the Lightning seem to take extra pride in beating the Habs.
The challenge is great, and it is not one the Habs can face on auto-pilot. This is one of their last chances to have a statement game.