How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Blue Jackets region: Fox Sports Ohio
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens played a beatable opponent on Saturday night, but (as we’ve seen for much of the season) were unable to elevate their play above that of a team with an inferior record, eventually falling to the New Jersey Devils in overtime.
Montreal had just beaten the NHL’s best team the night before, serving the Washington Capitals their first regulation loss in a month with a convincing performance. The Habs scored five goals, and controlled the play from the middle of the first period on.
The discrepancy in play that has been demonstrated so far in 2019-20 may be bad news for tonight’s contest, played versus another sub-.500 team in the Eastern Conference: the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tale of the Tape
|1-0-0||H2H Record (18-19)||0-0-1|
|52.5% (5th)||Corsi-for pct.||49.2% (22nd)|
|3.50 (6th)||Goals per game||2.37 (30th)|
|3.05 (19th)||Goals against per game||3.26 (21st)|
|20.3% (15th)||PP%||14.5% (25th)|
|71.9% (30th)||PK%||76.8% (21st)|
Montreal did manage to come away with a victory when the teams met seven days ago — barely. The Canadiens were outshot 35-32 by a team that had won one of its previous seven games. The Blue Jackets nearly snatched a regulation win when Zach Werenski scored with under two minutes to play. It was only the skill of Nick Suzuki and the assured finish of Tomas Tatar that got the Canadiens one point and the chance to claim the second.
Saturday’s preview outlined Montreal’s performance versus the bottom teams in the league, and with the loss to the Devils, the Habs’ record now sits at 3-3-1 versus teams below a .500 points percentage. The team left plenty of easily obtainable points behind through the opening quarter of the season.
Banking as many points as possible is critical for surviving a bit of adversity, and the Canadiens are now facing their first real test of the year. Mostly healthy to start, Montreal lost both Paul Byron and Jonathan Drouin to injury in the Capitals game, and both are now out for a minimum of a month. The situation will begin to strain the depth of the organization built up through the draft and adding minor-league veterans through free agency in recent seasons.
For now, the team has opted to just stick with Charles Hudon as their one call-up to replace two players. Jordan Weal is essentially their second after he was a healthy scratch for weeks and now will enjoy a regular roster spot. Tonight’s game is the last one on the road before a five-game homestand, so all the veterans and prospects they have stashed in Laval will just be a short drive away if their services are needed.
While they try to play through the loss of two wingers, some players who have been quiet will be relied upon for more production. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is back from an injury of his own, and has the ability to boost his wingers’ production on his own when playing at his peak. Artturi Lehkonen doesn’t usually begin to find much offensive success until the second half of the season, but perhaps he can adjust his sights before changing his calendar this year. Max Domi, who has stalled offensively in recent weeks, will likely be a mainstay on the wing for the foreseeable future with Drouin and Byron out, and Suzuki playing well enough to bump his from his centre spot even with a healthy roster.
Scoring by committee is nothing new for the team; it’s a feature of the club and how it’s been constructed over the past few seasons. Every forward on the roster will need to give a bit more to keep the team in its current position. It didn’t exactly play out that way on Saturday, so tonight is a chance for the healthy players to prove they can hold down the fort while two of the regulars recover.