How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Rangers region: MSG2
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live
The Montreal Canadiens will be happy to see the month of November behind them. They started it well enough with a 5-3-1 record in the first 10 games, but proceeded to lose the last five.
The team can be encouraged by the performance in their game on Tuesday versus the Carolina Hurricanes. They faced a team that was averaging 40 shots per night and, with the help of a returing Shea Weber, limited them to just 22, and fired 49 of their own.
Unfortunately, the Habs only found the net once, and after a hot start to the season, that has become a trend; in their last four games they have scored two or fewer goals. That occurred just five times in the first 21 contests.
They will get some help on that front tonight, as Paul Byron makes his return to the lineup, taking Charles Hudon’s spot on the Finnish Line alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen. Byron had been sixth on the team with seven points in 11 games when he was sidelined on October 30. The Habs have missed that offensive contribution, as well as his speed, in the month since.
Tale of the Tape
|52.9% (6th)||Corsi-for pct.||45.7% (29th)|
|3.00 (16th)||Goals per game||2.73 (25th)|
|3.32 (25th)||Goals against per game||3.04 (16th)|
|14.4% (29th)||PP%||18.5% (20th)|
|79.3% (14th)||PK%||78.8% (16th)|
The Canadiens could have used his skills in the first meeting with the New York Rangers this season. Attempting to hang on to a 3-1 lead, the Habs instead watched the Rangers reel of four unanswered goals for a 5-3 victory.
Had they won, they would have held a record of 9-4-2 after the game. However, the loss that actually resulted serves as one of the eight they’ve endured in the last 11 games.
Two goals from Tomas Tatar and another from Max Domi had Montreal up early in that game, while Carey Price was holding his own at his end of the ice. But things unraveled from about the midpoint of the third period, increasing the number of voices critical of Price’s play over the season. With a 6-5 overtime loss in the next match, Price was given some time off to refind his game.
Several highlight-reel saves since have announced that the one-time Hart Trophy-winner is back on top of his game, yet the goals still kept piling up. The narrative shifted from goaltending woes to a defence corps not able to contain the opposition’s forwards. With the return of Weber, which in turn eases the workload on Jeff Petry, along with the recall of Brett Kulak, who tonight takes a top-pairing spot alongside Weber, the team hopes that they’ve finally reined in their defensive-zone play.
That should help them stay competitive in that respect with tonight’s opponent. The Rangers are performing much better defensively than they should be given the current state of their rebuild. Only four teams allow more shots on target, and just five see more high-danger chances per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, yet the club is in the middle of pack in goals allowed per game.
Henrik Lundqvist has been one of the busiest goaltenders in the league this season, facing 653 shots in his 20 starts. At 36, he ranks 13th among goalies to play at least 12 games with a .920 save percentage, and has been a big reason why the Rangers are clinging to a wild-card position.
The good news in that Lundqvist hasn’t enjoyed a great deal of success against Montreal in the latter half of his career. Before a shutout victory to begin last season and the 5-3 win mentioned above, he had lost six regular-season games in a row, and nine of 10 when facing Montreal.
The Canadiens will hope that recent run of positive results is just a blip on the multi-year trend. Another solid defensive outing similar to what we saw on Monday will put them in a good position to get back in the win column and jump back above Lundqvist’s Rangers in the standings.