How to watch
It certainly wasn’t pretty, and arguably, it wasn’t even deserved. Nonetheless, the Montreal Canadiens escaped Detroit on Tuesday night with two points over their division rival, breaking a two-game losing streak in the process. While the game wasn’t anything that the team will rewatch for inspiration, the Habs can take some confidence in scrapping out a win in a game that would have most definitely resulted in a loss last year, and they’ll try to build on that in their final season matchup against the St. Louis Blues.
Tale of the Tape
|54.2% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||50.2% (14th)|
|3.00 (14th)||Goals per game||2.78 (22nd)|
|3.07 (19th)||Goals against per game||3.20 (23rd)|
|12.6% (31st)||PP%||19.0% (17th)|
|78.3% (20th)||PK%||79.3% (18th)|
Last season, the Blues surprised everyone by selling at the trade deadline, dealing Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets for picks and prospects. Despite the pessimism of the management team following a terrible February, the Blues rebounded in March and April ... only to miss the playoffs by a single point. Buoyed by the year-end run, the Blues became buyers during the off-season, landing Ryan O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres.
Apparently, the Blues management were right the first time. A 2-4-3 start set the tone for the 2018-19 season, and the Blues have not been above .500 in any individual month so far this year. Currently sitting at the bottom of the Central Division, the decision to buy or sell this year should be much easier for the Blues’ brass — provided that any of them are still there to call those shots.
The first time that these two teams met this season, in Montreal on October 17, was billed as a test for the Habs as to whether they could play “Western-style” hockey. An unexpected 3-1-1 start was tempered by a limp defeat to the Los Angeles Kings, and fans and pundits were wondering if the Habs lined up well against skill and speed but were no match for size and physicality.
The Canadiens responded by holding their own against the Blues, keeping their bigger opponents to the perimeter and generally limiting their chances against Carey Price. When the Blues equalized with a second power-play marker late in the third period, the Habs did not wilt and play for overtime, resulting in Brendan Gallagher doing what Brendan Gallagher does best.
Tonight, the narrative will no longer be about speed vs. strength, but rather whether the Canadiens can capitalize in games against teams below them in the standings as they strive to overtake the likes of the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders in the hunt for the final playoff positions. St. Louis, with only three double-digit scorers, injuries to Tyler Bozak and Alexander Steen, and underwhelming performances from their stars, especially Vladimir Tarasenko, are ripe for the picking. But the Canadiens will need a much more polished performance than what they displayed in Detroit if they are to leave the Gateway City with a perfect road-trip record.