After what was a decent performance in a losing effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, the Montreal Canadiens turned in one of their worst showings of the season on Saturday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Habs saw 51 shot attempts launched at their net in the second period alone as they put up little resistance against a top offensive team.
Despite giving up four goals, Charlie Lindgren made some incredible saves to prevent the Leafs from getting at least double that amount on the night. It’s hard to call it a bounce-back given the number of goals he surrendered, but the netminder looked much more focused in the net than he had in his previous games, and was relentless in his effort to get his body between the puck and the net on a night when his teammates seemed indifferent about doing the same.
Lost in a game that seemed to be largely played in the Canadiens’ end was another effective outing from the line of Alex Galchenyuk, Jacob de la Rose, and Artturi Lehkonen. The trio was deployed regularly on the night, and started the majority of their shifts in the defensive zone. Yet it was Galchenyuk who finished the game with the highest Corsi-for percentage on the team, at 61%. With ice times for forwards distributed fairly evenly, he led all skaters in on-ice shot attempts for and was right at the top of the list for fewest attempts allowed. Lehkonen and de la Rose weren’t far behind in any of those categories.
Claude Julien isn’t shying away from getting his young players critical experience in tough minutes as the team looks ahead to next season, and tonight’s match against the Florida Panthers will be no different.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN (English), RDS (French)
In the Panthers region: FS-F
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
The coach has two options to choose from as the assignment for his young charges. The Panthers have been getting steady offence from both Aleksander Barkov’s and Vincent Trocheck’s lines this season, and the centremen have shadowed each other’s production on the year. The Canadiens have allowed each to get three points through three head-to-head games in 2017-18.
The previous two matchups were hosted in Sunrise, with the Habs unable to get any of their combined 78 shots into the net.
Roberto Luongo was credited with the latest of those shutouts, coming just 11 days ago in a 5-0 win. The soon-to-be 39-year-old ranks at the top goaltender in save percentage among those who have played at least 25 games, though has just recently reached that criterion in a season limited by a groin injury, and that after recovering from a hip injury in the off-season.
The Montreal native hasn’t fared quite as well in recent games, however, allowing 11 goals in his last three outings. The slip comes at a bad time, as every point the Panthers leave on the table hinders their desperate attempt to climb into a playoff spot.
A big shutout win for James Reimer over the Boston Bruins on Thursday was sandwiched between Luongo’s losses at the hands of the lowly Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers. Those were four points the Panthers would have liked to have, and they will have a tough time making up what is currently a five-point deficit to the New Jersey Devils if they lose to another non-playoff team tonight.
Antti Niemi, who has been one of the top goalies in the league since being claimed off the waivers the Panthers placed him on in November, should be getting the start tonight. Another solid performance typical of his tenure in Montreal could prove to be a key spoiler in the playoff aspirations of his former team.