A four-day period of rest at the end of March didn’t have many rejuvenating effects on the Montreal Canadiens. Their two games since have been losing efforts, as they’ve scored a combined total of three goals.
The task will be no easier tonight as the Habs host the Winnipeg Jets in the antepenultimate game of their regular season. The final game to be played at the Bell Centre this season will pit the home side versus a top-five defensive club.
Connor Hellebuyck has been the defensive star of the Jets this season. After years of being held back by the goaltending of Ondrej Pavelec, and an unsuccessful experiment with Steve Mason as the desginated starter, the team has finally found the man to provide a steady presence between the pipes.
There are signs that the Canadiens are getting that type of goaltending back of their own in recent games. Despite their offensive issues, Carey Price has been holding his team within striking distance with encouraging performances at the end of what has been an uncharacteristically poor season. With three games left in the season, he can ease some of the doubts that had begun to emerge as the start date of his new eight-year extension draws closer.
He will have to be on top of his game to give the depleted Habs a chance to win, as the Jets are capable of scoring at will.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Jets region: TSN3
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
Only three teams score more goals per game than the Jets. Patrik Laine leads the way for the team with 43 goals, but it’s Blake Wheeler who leads the team in points, just one back of hitting 90 for the first time in his career. He’s recorded an assist on 16 of Laine’s 43 goals, and nearly all of them have come on the power play as two two usually play on different lines.
Being able to separate two of the league’s top offensive forwards is a major advantage for the team, preventing clubs from simply focusing on one trio. It’s also a testament to the incredible depth the team has at the position, employing point-per-game centre Mark Scheifele, 30-goal-scorer Kyle Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers, who’s close to reaching that mark himself.
It will be a night of chasing milestones all around tonight, as Paul Byron is still looking to hit an even 20 goals on the year. The game-winning goal for the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night came moments after he misseed an open shot on a 5-on-3 power play, and, given how he publicly called out his teammates for their performance of late, he’s probably been thinking about that chance in the two days since, and will be eager to finally get that goal.
The last time the two teams played, the Habs overcame power-play goals from Laine, Ehlers, and Wheeler to claim a 5-4 overtime win in Winnipeg. The final score will probably need to be much lower if the Canadiens are to be the ones on the winning side tonight.