How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live
On Thursday night, for a period and a half, it looked like the second matchup of the year between the Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes would end much like the first. Despite a considerable advantage in shots, chances, and possession for the home team, it was the Canes who held a 1-0 advantage.
It took a goal from a rather unlikely source — the just-reinstated Matthew Peca — to break the dam, but once that first crack appeared, the Canadiens then proceeded to put five more behind Petr Mrazek en route to a 6-4 victory.
Tale of the Tape
|54.0% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||42.9% (31st)|
|3.16 (14th)||Goals per game||3.33 (9th)|
|3.28 (23rd)||Goals against per game||3.85 (31st)|
|12.7% (30th)||PP%||22.1% (12th)|
|76.2% (27th)||PK%||73.4% (29th)|
Next up, the Canadiens face a familiar foe in the Ottawa Senators for the third time in two weeks. After an initial overtime defeat back in October, the Habs rebounded with back-to-back 5-2 victories over the Sens to take the lead in the season series.
For the Senators, who had won three straight prior to their encounters with the Habs, the subsequent two weeks have not been kind. Forced by the schedule makers to face three juggernauts of the NHL — the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and Nashville Predators — the Senators have managed three regulation goals in those three games while being outshot to a combined tune of 116-83, yet managed to secure three of a possible six points.
They also briefly became the talk of hockey Twitter, but for a reason they’d rather not remember:
Here come the Ottawa Senators. pic.twitter.com/fvSs2trc3g— Mаtthew McKenna (@MattMcK2419) December 10, 2018
The Senators do enter Montreal with a bit of momentum, having secured a 4-2 victory over an opponent more on their level, the Detroit Red Wings. Nonetheless, despite the Sens’ offensive struggles, every Habs fan knows that the team is not bereft of weapons up front. In particular, the trio of Thomas Chabot (35 points in 33 games), Matt Duchene (34 points in 30 games), and Mr. Microfracture himself (36 points in 33 games) have spearheaded what little success the Senators have had. Wunderkind Brady Tkachuk started the season hot, but has not registered a point in his last eight games.
From a Habs perspective, the biggest problem since October has been general inconsistency, from the defence in particular. While the focus earlier in the season was on the rag-tag nature of the defence corps, the overutilization of Jeff Petry, and Carey Price’s subpar run of form, none of those reasons apply to the current situation. Price has returned to form, and Shea Weber’s return, in combination with demotions for Victor Mete, Karl Alzner, and Xavier Ouellet, means the Canadiens have a defined unit of the standard six or seven guys, and also that Petry no longer has to log 25 minutes every night.
Despite all of this, the team has seen 13 goals against in their last three games, and would have allowed more against the Chicago Blackhawks if not for Price’s heroics.
Special teams has also contributed to the Habs’ up-and-down November and December. The Canadiens have not scored a power-play goal in their last six games (18 attempts), and have only scored more than one power-play marker in a game once all season. The penalty kill, since a stretch of five consecutive clean sheets from November 1 to 8, has allowed at least one goal against in 12 of the 16 games since, culminating in that horror-show in Minnesota where they allowed four goals on four Wild opportunities.
The Senators are not a gifted hockey team, and, realistically, while it feels strange to say this about a team that no one expected to accomplish anything this season, this is a game that the Canadiens should win. The thing is, the Senators possess enough firepower to punish teams in certain situations, and the Canadiens’ poor special teams and propensity for defensive-zone breakdowns makes them vulnerable to being punished.