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Canadiens vs. Capitals: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

The defending Stanley Cup champions visit Montreal, bringing with them a few old friends.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens vs. Washington Capitals

How to watch

Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French),
In the Capitals region: NBC Sports-Washington
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live

Last summer, the Washington Capitals, after a decade of heartbreak for this generation and four decades as a franchise, finally reached the pinnacle of hockey, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights and winning the Stanley Cup. The new champions spent the summer releasing all those years of pent-up sadness and angst ... let’s just say that there was much alcohol involved.

Come the new season, the Capitals have shown little sign of a post-victory hangover, sending a message to the rest of the league with their opening-night 7-0 drubbing of the Boston Bruins. While they currently sit fourth in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 5-3-2, they’re only two points back of the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Capitals
Canadiens Statistic Capitals
6-3-2 Record 5-3-2
1-2-0 H2H Record (17-18) 2-1-0
52.8% (8th) Corsi-for pct. 49.2% (18th)
33 (21st) Goals for 38 (10th)
29 (7th) Goals against 36 (19th)
16.3% (21st) PP% 37.1% (1st)
77.5% (18th) PK% 72.5% (25th)
OT•W•L•W•L Form W•SO•W•L•W

The Capitals are unsurprisingly led by the best goal-scorer of this generation (and possibly even all time), Alex Ovechkin. He is continuing last year’s form — which led to a rebound 49-goal campaign — hitting the back of the net eight times in 10 games so far, while chipping in a further six helpers. The captain does not lead his team in scoring though, That honour goes to linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov (5G, 10A).

The Capitals’ offence largely runs through their power play, which, for opposing penalty-kill units, presents a Catch-22. Yes, the league, the world, and the universe are all fully aware of the lethal threat posed by Ovechkin (4 PPG) in his office, but the other members of the first unit are no slouches either. The presence of Kuznetsov (5), Nicklas Backstrom (2), John Carlson (1), and T.J. Oshie (1) means that teams overcommit to Ovechkin at their own peril.

For a team with a penalty kill as inconsistent as the Montreal Canadiens’, staying out of the box would be imperative against any opponent, but a lack of discipline against the Capitals would be the equivalent of forfeiting the match. That said, if the Capitals are not allowed to unleash their man-advantage weapons, their offence regresses from very good (38 goals for, 10th) to merely average (25 goals, 16th).

The key to the Habs’ success all year has been offensive pressure, and this game against Washington will be no different; the best way to stop Ovechkin and friends is to keep them in their own zone. This has to be the plan of attack for a Canadiens team reeling from a 4-1 defeat to the Dallas Stars, a game that they largely controlled before two goals stemming from penalties wrestled momentum from their hands.

Given that rookie Pheonix Copley started the Capitals’ last game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, Braden Holtby should be in net to face the Habs. Opposite him will probably be Carey Price, who will look to improve upon his career record of 6-13-4 (.891 save percentage, 3.30 GAA) against the Capitals.