How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CITY-TV, Sportsnet 360 (English), TVA Sports (French),
In the Lightning region: FOX Sports-Sun
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live
A rollercoaster track meet is not usually the preferred course of action for a team facing the Washington Capitals, but the Canadiens beat them at their own game in a thrilling affair Thursday night to keep alive their streak of not losing consecutive games so far this year.
I hope they — and you — are ready to do it all over again.
The Capitals may be the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have been the class of the Eastern Conference so far this season. For 12 games, the Bolts have been led by the surprising pairing of Brayden Point (7G, 7A) and Yanni Gourde (4G, 8A), while more established stars like Nikita Kucherov (12 points) and Steven Stamkos (8 points) have chipped in as well.
Tale of the Tape
|1-1-2||H2H Record (17-18)||3-1-0|
|53.3% (7th)||Corsi-for pct.||53.5% (6th)|
|39 (14th)||Goals for||41 (11th)|
|33 (8th)||Goals against||34 (10th)|
|15.6% (24th)||PP%||27.9% (8th)|
|78.0% (17th)||PK%||93.3% (1st)|
Sitting atop the Atlantic Division with 17 points, the Lightning have attracted league-wide attention for their shocking penalty-killing prowess. Anchored by Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay did not allow a shorthanded goal through their first six games. They fended off 28 consecutive shorthanded situations before Nick Schmaltz finally broke through at 16:12 of the third period of game number seven while the Lightning was leading 5-2. Since then, the Bolts’ PK has faltered somewhat, allowing two goals on a further 18 opportunities. Not to be outdone, after starting the year with an 0-fer their first eight chances, their power play unit cored at least once in eight of their next 10 games.
That being said, the Lightning’s offence has been blowing hot and cold in their last five games—alternating one-goal performances (versus Colorado, Arizona, and Nashville) with larger outbursts (three goals for versus Vegas, and seven versus New Jersey). Unfortunately for the Habs, if this trend continues, the Bolts are due for their explosion Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
So far this season, the Canadiens have won their games through depth, as evidenced by how each line (except the fourth) contributed roughly equally to their win over Washington on Thursday night. As for the Lightning, the Habs face off against a team that also features a very balanced roster but possesses more talent overall. As we’ve already seen this season with Toronto, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Washington, a period of hard work can be completely erased by one momentary lapse against elite talent, so the Habs will need to bring a full sixty-minute effort if they’re to take four of six points on this homestead.
If there is a weak point in Jon Cooper’s team, it may be the defence. With Victor Hedman out of the lineup since last Friday, and likely not making the trip up north for the Lightning’s Canadian weekend, Mikhail Sergachev, Braydon Coburn, and Dan Girardi have all seen upticks in their ice time, while Slater Koekkoek has been pressed into the lineup. Koekkoek notched his first NHL goal in the Bolts’ last game against the Nashville Predators, but all three pairs were also on the ice for at least one goal against in a 4-1 defeat.
Despite allowing four goals, Carey Price still factored significantly into the Habs’ win on Thursday. With a New York back-to-back early next week, Price will likely get the start on Saturday before taking either Monday or Tuesday off. For the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been getting two starts to every one for Louis Domingue. While conventional wisdom would indicate that Cooper would buck this trend and start Vasilevskiy for a third consecutive time while saving Domingue for Sunday’s game in Ottawa, Domingue is a Quebec native who hasn’t played in Montreal since October of 2016, when he allowed four goals (including one to Alexei Emelin) with the Arizona Coyotes in a 5-2 loss.
After Thursday’s loss to the Predators, Yanni Gourde said: “With the speed we have on this team, that’s our identity. We have to keep doing that, keep working hard, and be relentless on the puck.”
Does this sound familiar?