Montreal Canadiens vs. Minnesota Wild
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Wild region: Fox Sports North
Streaming: NHL.tv / NHL Live
On Tuesday night, the Montreal Canadiens went toe-to-toe with their illustrious opposition for most of the night. For 54 minutes, the Habs mustered 25 more shot attempts than the Lightning and outscored them 1-0. Unfortunately, for a six-minute stretch between 15:46 of the first period and 2:01 of the second, the Bolts hammered the Canadiens, outattempting the home team by 15 and lighting the lamp three times, in an encapsulation of the difference between elite and good teams.
A Lightning victory resulting from six minutes of hockey is hardly the first time the Canadiens have seen otherwise solid efforts undone by a series of lapses or a stretch of poor play. In fact, it seems to be a prevailing trend early in a season that has only borne witness to one complete wire-to-wire solid performance by those wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge. This trend cannot continue if the Canadiens are to realistically contend for the post-season.
Tale of the Tape
|0-2-0||H2H Record (18-19)||2-0-0|
|52.4% (7th)||Corsi-for pct.||50.0% (17th)|
|3.50 (10th)||Goals per game||2.33 (24th)|
|3.83 (28th)||Goals against per game||4.17 (29th)|
|23.8% (12th)||PP%||15.0% (23rd)|
|61.1% (29th)||PK%||77.3% (19th)|
The Minnesota Wild, the final opponent of a small four-game homestand, offer a prime opportunity for the Canadiens to refocus and rebound from Tuesday night’s defeat. After six consecutive playoff appearances, the Wild finished seventh in the Central Division last season. The effects of a turbulent off-season punctuated by the acrimonious departure of first-year general manager Paul Fenton has carried over into the 2019-20 campaign, and the Wild arrive at the Bell Centre with a sole victory in six matches.
Fenton’s replacement, Bill Guerin, has been tasked with trying to make something out of a mishmash roster. The Wild’s core is perhaps not completely expired, but well past its best-before date. The youth, Matt Dumba aside, is not ready to fill the void, and Fenton’s foolish attempts to plug the dam merely added dead weight to the roster in the form of Victor Rask and (possibly) Kevin Fiala in exchange for Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.
However, the Wild are still replete with veteran savvy and discipline, and the likes of Ryan Suter, Eric Staal, Jared Spurgeon, Jason Zucker, and Mikko Koivu possess ample ability to take advantage if a team is not playing up to capacity. Minnesota may slip under the radar in the Central Division because they lack the firepower of perennial contenders Nashville and Winnipeg, up and comers Colorado and Dallas, or reigning champions St. Louis, but the Canadiens take them lightly at their own risk, especially given the nature of their own problems.
One of the reasons why the Habs have been punished so heavily for momentary lapses is that their main weaknesses make them extremely vulnerable for short instants. So far this year, Shea Weber has not been the player that he was even as recently as last season, and while the captain’s play has been decent most of the time, significant errors have crept into his game. In combination with the relative inexperience of Victor Mete, that leaves the Canadiens vulnerable to major defensive breakdowns. In the same vein, the success of the Habs relies on consistently applying pressure on the opposition until they break, and their well documented penalty-killing woes essentially offer a release valve to the other team.
The Canadiens have a difficult week ahead of them, with a back-to-back on the road against the Blues and the Wild again, followed by home dates with the Sharks and Maple Leafs. Tonight’s game represents a chance to finish their homestand on a positive note, and build momentum for the upcoming gauntlet.