How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EST / 5:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Wild region: FOX Sports North, FOX Sports Wisconsin
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live
Well, it wasn’t exactly pretty, but despite surrendering a whopping nine power plays and spending a full quarter of the game short-handed, the Montreal Canadiens are headed to the Land of 10,000 Lakes on a three-game winning streak.
Awaiting them are the Minnesota Wild, a team that, like the Habs, followed a hot October (7-3-2) with a cold November (7-6-0). Unlike the Habs, though, who have rebounded to the tune of four wins and one defeat in December, the Wild are still mired in their slump, having only a single victory to their credit in their last six games.
The most recent 7-2 shellacking at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers brought out the knives in the press box, with the scribes describing the team’s situation as a “crisis,” their play as “shattered,” and Devan Dubnyk’s return to Earth after a hot start as “splatter[ing] like an overripe watermelon.”
Tale of the Tape
|0-2-0||H2H Record (17-18)||2-0-0|
|53.7% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||50.3% (15th)|
|3.13 (12th)||Goals per game||3.03 (16th)|
|3.13 (20th)||Goals against per game||2.97 (16th)|
|13.6% (29th)||PP%||22.1% (13th)|
|79.0% (18th)||PK%||84.6% (2nd)|
To make matters worse, team captain Mikko Koivu took a knee from Mark Giordano on Thursday night (a hit for which Giordano was suspended for two games), and while he’s officially listed as day-to-day, the 35-year-old Finn has not practised or played since Thursday night and the Wild have recalled Luke Kunin to take his spot in the lineup.
Despite Koivu’s absence and the Wild’s free-fall, the team is still hardly bereft of scoring options. Eric Staal (10G, 10A) is continuing his career resurgence, Ryan Suter (4G, 17A) is tied for 10th in the league for points by a defenceman, and Mikael Granlund (11G, 17A) has straddled a point-per-game pace all season and will be looking to recover from a -5 outing against the Oilers.
For the Habs, despite having a day off between games, it’ll be interesting to see if fatigue becomes a factor. Claude Julien’s lack of faith in Jordie Benn and Mikey Reilly was made abundantly clear after Patrick Kane’s equalizer at 12:55 of the second period, as the duo only saw three more shifts for the remaining 27:05 of the game. Strikingly, Benn, the team’s third-most-used penalty-killer (2:45 per game), only saw a single PK shift in the third period despite the team being shorthanded for 10 minutes. This, combined with the barrage of penalties taken by the Habs in Chicago, resulted in some strange TOI numbers: Shea Weber played 29:31, Jeff Petry 22:43, David Schlemko 20:45, Brett Kulak 19:21, and Phillip Danault 19:33.
Alternatively, there were definitely some well-rested bodies on that plane leaving Chicago as well. The likes of Brendan Gallagher, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jonathan Drouin, and Max Domi essentially sat on the bench for four-minute chunks on two occasions, with Kotkaniemi logging only 13:08 after averaging 14:42 in the nine games previous to that. Having watched their defensive-minded teammates bail the team out on Sunday, the offensive players should be champing at the bit to repay the favour on Tuesday night.
The Canadiens went into Chicago and essentially got away with one. They should not think that lightning can strike twice just because their opponent happens to be facing significant problems of their own. The Wild may be slumping, but they still have an exceptional home record (8-4-2) and can expect a very favourable special-teams matchup.
The Wild’s perfectly capable power play unit might be facing a tired Habs penalty kill, while Minnesota’s second-ranked penalty kill will match up against a Montreal power play that can be best described as ... can we go back to the splattering watermelon simile? It may be trite, but the Habs will definitely have to win this game at 5-on-5 in order to have a good shot of walking out of Minnesota with two more points in the bank.