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After an awful performance all around in their game versus the Edmonton Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens headed down to Calgary to take on the Flames on Thursday night. Carey Price got his first bit of game action since a 6-5 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on November 8.
The Canadiens were hoping that the rest would snap a stretch of allowing at least four goals for the former Vezina Trophy-winner. The players in front of him provided good conditions for the test, allowing 45 shots to get in on their netminder. Price passed it with flying colours, stopping all but two from the stick of Matthew Tkachuk to steal two points and build up a sizable portion of confidence.
His team did at least provide him with some offence, as they have been doing all season long; somewhat surprising for a team that was near the bottom in that category a season ago. Few players are raising eyebrows around the league like Max Domi, who extended a season-long point streak to eight games with an assist, and has been held off the scoresheet just once in the last 15 games. He’s halfway to reaching his total production from last season, less than a quarter of the way through.
Tale of the Tape
|2-0-0||H2H Record (17-18)||0-2-0|
|52.0% (6th)||Corsi-for pct.||46.5% (27th)|
|61 (10th)||Goals for||64 (5th)|
|63 (27th)||Goals against||73 (30th)|
|12.7% (30th)||PP%||18.3% (21st)|
|81.3% (13th)||PK%||78.2% (20th)|
Despite their general offensive struggles in 2017-18, offence wasn’t hard to come by in the Canadiens’ two-game season series versus the Vancouver Canucks. After Montreal outgunned them in B.C. in mid-December with a 7-5 decision, they posted another handful of goals at home three weeks later in a 5-2 win. Even Karl Alzner was in on the action, netting the only goal of his first season in Montreal.
The Canadiens will be hoping to extend a winning streak versus the Canucks to six games, dating back to a 4-3 overtime win on November 16, 2015.
Standing in the way of that win is Elias Pettersson, who has the Calder Trophy nearly under wraps already with a point-per-game pace to start the season. No other rookie is particularly close to matching his 17 points, and he’s done that in fewer games than any other freshman in the top nine.
At one point this year, the Canucks’ production was at the very peak of the NHL, thanks not only to Pettersson, but a more complete Jake Virtanen (10 points), second-year forward Brock Boeser (11), and 23-year-old Bo Horvat at the top of list (18). They still rank sixth in the NHL with 64 goals, but they’ve also played more than any other team in the NHL, and their goals-per-game rate of 3.05 is actually 18th as a result. After scoring eight times in Boston on November 8, they have that same number of goals in their last four games.
Their defensive play simply isn’t good enough to survive a downturn in offence. Only the Ottawa Senators allow more goals per contest. In that four-game losing streak, they’ve seen opponents score 16 goals. They also gave up five to the Bruins in that last win mentioned above.
Montreal may see little pushback of their offensive attack, and that’s good news for Domi and co. However, the Canucks forwards may be looking at the Canadiens’ defensive numbers and believing the same thing, seeing a chance to break out of a goal-scoring drought. Montreal needs Price to turn in another stellar performance, but having a more tactically sounds defence in front of him to contain the skilled Canucks forwards would be a major help as well.