How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Bruins region: NESN
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Playing what was perhaps the easiest competition they will face during a week in the 2019-20 season, the Montreal Canadiens made things very difficult on themselves. Games against the New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators, and New York Rangers presented the Habs with a legitmate chance to acquire all eight points. Instead, they got two.
At least in the middle two games of that sequence they were clearly the better team, and only a lack of a finishing touch prevented them from winning. The worst performances bookended the stretch, and in the one in which they actually did manage to score some goals, they blew a 4-0 lead in alarming fashion on the way to a 6-5 defeat.
Defence was a concept Montreal rejected on Saturday night. The Rangers weren’t getting a lot of time in the attacking end, but nearly every time they did it was for a great offensive look. The Canadiens actually stopped the bleeding by answering three consecutive goals against with a marker a quarter of the way through the final frame, but then proceeded to let the same thing happen once again, seemingly indifferent to the game’s outcome.
The most frustrating part of the whole affair was that you knew during the entire run of losses that the team wouldn’t be playing such a lacklustre style in the game that was on the schedule tonight. The Boston Bruins will be at the Bell Centre, and Montreal is going to play at its peak level in the rivalry game.
Tale of the Tape
|53.7% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||50.8% (12th)|
|3.39 (8th)||Goals per game||3.61 (2nd)|
|3.22 (21st)||Goals against per game||2.43 (3rd)|
|19.4% (15th)||PP%||31.0% (3rd)|
|73.6% (27th)||PK%||82.2% (16th)|
We saw that in the first game the two teams played this season. With one of the most prolific offensive units opposing them, the Canadiens limited the line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron — the players who currently rank third, fourth, and 20th in NHL scoring, respectively — to just two points. Victor Mete produced that much offence on his own that night, recording the first two-goal game of his professional career.
The Bruins received some tertiary offence to compensate. Anders Bjork netted his second goal of the season, Sean Kuraly his first, and there was even the requisite first NHL goal, this one for Connor Clifton.
Montreal kept powering through as the Bruins erased several leads. The visitors never officially edged ahead in the game, but they were temporarily up 5-4 in the third period before a coach’s challenge got the goal overturned for the play being offside by a few millimetres. The Canadiens took advantage of the situation by scoring a fifth goal of their own not long afterward, as Ben Chiarot finished things off with the game-winner.
Claude Julien will be expecting another near-perfect defensive showing from his own top line tonight to keep the Bruins’ in check — even though it will likely feature David Krejci with Bergeron out with an injury. That trio was the best in terms of possession throughout the current four-game winless streak at around a 65% Corsi-for percentage, but they weren’t immune from defensive lapses, either, with high-danger chances much less in their favour.
The head coach should be more concerned about the play of his defencemen. They looked particularly lost in the game versus the Rangers, allowing odd-man situation to form low in the zone with poor recognition of the situation, or just half-hearted defensive plays.
Shea Weber and Chiarot actually had a good performance over the winless streak, with about two high-danger chances to every one against. There were some questions when Julien put them together, but some noticeable progress in Chiarot’s puck-moving abilities is making it look like a good partnership.
Farther down the order, things aren’t so rosy. Jeff Petry and Mete looked good in terms of possession, but they’ve been having difficulty limiting the quality looks for the opposition. The duo of Cale Fleury and Brett Kulak faltered even more, really struggling around their own crease in particular, posting high-danger-chances-for percentages of just 26.7% and 33.3%, respectively, going back to last Saturday’s game versus New Jersey.
If the Canadiens still have designs on finishing in a seeded position, the good news is that the Bruins haven’t completely run away at the top of the Atlantic since the last meeting. Losses to the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, and Florida Panthers followed that emotional outing in Montreal, though they do come into tonight’s matchup on a three-game winning streak, doing what the Canadiens couldn’t by beating a handful of non-playoff teams.
A regulation win for the Habs tonight gets the gap down to six points with nearly 60 games left on the schedule. Having blown a chance to keep pace with their rivals over the past week, the Canadiens now face much tougher opposition as they’re tasked with getting the train back on the rails.