How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CityTV (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NHL Network
In the Blues region: Fox Sports Midwest
Streaming: NHL.tv / NHL Live
The Montreal Canadiens’ comeback streak to open the season was entertaining, but it’s now a thing of the past after a first regulation loss. As is the nature of such things, you tend to look back at the negatives of the recent sequence after a loss, remembering that the team has allowed at least four goals in the past three contests. A lethargic performance in a game versus the Detroit Red Wings that the Canadiens probably should have won doesn’t help to prevent such thinking.
The good news is that the Habs probably won’t play as poorly tonight as they did in the first game at the Bell Centre. Passes weren’t just not crisp, but often completely off-target, while the nominal defence provided little resistance to the Red Wings, which did nothing to aid Carey Price.
Such a performance tonight won’t leave Montreal still within striking distance as they were late in Thursday’s game. The reigning Stanley Cup champions have swept through their tour of Canadian cities so far this week, and they would handily dispatch the Habs if the game played out the same way.
Tale of the Tape
|1-1-0||H2H Record (18-19)||1-1-0|
|49.4% (18th)||Corsi-for pct.||45.8% (26th)|
|3.50 (12th)||Goals per game||3.50 (12th)|
|4.25 (26th)||Goals against per game||2.75 (12th)|
|33.3% (7th)||PP%||18.2% (21st)|
|66.7 (23th)||PK%||85.7% (9th)|
Joel Armia may not think it was such a bad game versus Detroit. He took over the team goal-scoring lead with his third of the season, and is now displaying plenty of confidence in the offensive zone. His play has been strong for a team that now sports a 1-1-2 record.
The entire Habs team was feeling confident around this time a season ago. As they did this year, they played the Red Wings right before welcoming the Blues to town, but enjoyed a decisive 7-3 victory over Detroit on that occasion. The Habs were 3-1-1 when the puck dropped versus the Blues in 2018, and the record was even better at the end of the night.
At two goals apiece, the game seemed destined for overtime, but Brendan Gallagher isn’t one to simply watch the final seconds tick off the clock. He got in on the forecheck and deflected the Colton Parayko cross-ice pass intended for his defence partner. Tomas Tatar was on the scene to poke the puck back to his alternate captain, resulting in a surprise winner for the hosts.
It was one of many losses in the first half of the season for the Blues, whose status as a contender slowly faded in the opening months of the campaign.
When the two met again on January 10, 2019, St. Louis was in 28th place in the NHL, and just two points up on the last-place Philadelphia Flyers. It was the second NHL start for netminder Jordan Binnington, and the Canadiens were one of the first teams to witness what the rest of the league would soon learn about the rookie netminder.
Despite 29 shots, Montreal beat him just once (Gallagher again) in a 4-1 defeat; a minor blip in a stellar run from December to the first week of February for the Habs. For St. Louis, it was the beginning to their extraordinary climb from being in 31st place on January 3, to nearly claiming the top seed in the Central Division at the end of the regular season, and then ultimately hoisting to Cup on June 12.
It’s very early in the new season, but the positions of the two clubs are similar to where they finished in 2018-19. The Blues are sitting atop the Central, while the Canadiens are just outside of a wild-card spot.
It’s a tough opening month for Montreal, with several quality teams on the schedule — including the Blues again in a week’s time. If Montreal wants to end their post-season drought, they need to show that they can compete with the top clubs in the league, and more specifically to show that the defence can limit the elite formations in the league.