How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Sharks region: NBC Sports California
Streaming: NHL.tv / NHL Live
As the Montreal Canadiens prepare to take the ice Thursday night for their 10th game of the season, they do so having declared that last year was no fluke. While fifth place in the Atlantic Division and ninth place in the Eastern Conference isn’t particularly spectacular without context, the Habs had to skate through a veritable gauntlet to get here, taking on the likes of Toronto, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis (twice). They’ve done this while racking up the third-best goal differential in the division and sixth-best in the conference, sparking optimism that they could contend for home-ice advantage rather than simply for a playoff spot.
Tale of the Tape
|0-2-0||H2H Record ('18-'19)||2-0-0|
|52.0% (12th)||Corsi-for pct.||51.1% (13th)|
|3.67 (5th)||Goals per game||2.67 (21st)|
|3.22 (18th)||Goals against per game||3.56 (26th)|
|27.3% (6th)||PP%||21.9% (12th)|
|71.0% (25th)||PK%||90.6% (2nd)|
For the Habs, the journey is just beginning, with another date with Toronto, a trip to Vegas, and a match with a surprisingly good Arizona Coyotes team looming to close out the month. First things first, though: the San Jose Sharks come to town for their only visit to the Bell Centre this season.
Coming off a tumultous but exciting playoff run last season, the Sharks currently occupy an unfamiliar place: the last one in the Pacific Division. After starting the season with four consecutive regulation defeats, the Sharks rattled off three wins in a row before dropping two 4-3 decisions to the Buffalo Sabres in a home-and-home that was separated by three days.
San Jose has been led by familiar faces — Brent Burns, new captain Logan Couture, Evander Kane, and Tomas Hertl top the team’s scoring leaderboard, while Patrick Marleau has responded to his homecoming with three points in three games. Conversely, Joe Thornton only has two assists to his name, Kevin Labanc has three points, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, long considered the glue of the Sharks’ blue line, has no points along with a 13.3% on-ice goals-for percentage and a 44.5% Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five.
The Sharks are too good to stay this bad, and Peter DeBoer probably knows it, given how he hasn’t made any radical lineup moves during this down stretch. The Habs will probably face a balanced attack, with the Sharks’ bench boss splitting his offensive weapons among the top nine. Defensively, the visitors have stuck to the Vlasic-Brent Burns and Brenden Dillon-Erik Karlsson pairings, despite Vlasic’s struggles and Karlsson’s defensive lapses.
That said, if the Sharks are really going to climb out of this hole, they will need Martin Jones to regain his .915 form of two years ago, rather than the .894 mark that he currently sports. Jones can’t even blame porous defending for his woes, given that he currently ranks 54th out of 61 eligible netminders league-wide in goals saved above average.
The Habs will look to build on the positives from their recent stretch, with solid efforts against the Lightning, Wild, and Blues before the team ran out of gas in the third period of a road back-to-back in a rematch against the Minnesotans.
The team may be forced into some lineup adjustments, however. Tomas Tatar left practice yesterday after an encounter with Shea Weber. Claude Julien chose to place Nick Suzuki in the spot vacated by the Slovak veteran, while Joel Armia may be eyeing a return on the second line beside Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin. Whether Julien chooses to place Suzuki in a position to go up directly against the likes of Couture remains to be seen.
At the moment, the Sharks are a team swimming against the current, trying to pull themselves out of a whirlpool. This gives the Canadiens a golden opportunity to take points from an opponent who they have not beaten since March 21, 2015.