How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
There were some concerns about how the Montreal Canadiens would fare on their road trip after being sent off from the Bell Centre with a loss to the lowly Detroit Red Wings last Saturday. It was an important stretch of the season, and it seemed to be getting off on the wrong foot.
Montreal quickly put that loss behind them, overcoming a one-goal deficit on Tuesday night with three consecutive goals versus the Vancouver Canucks. On Thursday they allowed the Calgary Flames to net the game’s first two goals, but they once again scored their way out of trouble, getting to game to overtime and making it consecutive wins on a Max Domi winner.
The tour of Canadian cities in the Pacific Division concludes tonight when the Canadiens head to Rogers Place to battle the sliding Edmonton Oilers.
Tale of the Tape
|1-1-0||H2H Record (18-19)||1-0-1|
|53.7% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||47.6% (26th)|
|3.14 (12th)||Goals per game||2.89 (19th)|
|3.14 (22nd)||Goals against per game||3.05 (16th)|
|21.2% (11th)||PP%||29.8% (2nd)|
|75.2% (27th)||PK%||84.3% (6th)|
On November 14, the Oilers were topping the Western Conference with a 13-6-3 record. Not only were they scoring the number of goals you’d expect with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid performing a tag-team stanglehold on the Art Ross leaderboard, but they were allowing few goals as well, thanks to some exceptional play from Mikko Koskinen covering up some glaring defensive issues.
Since the middle of November, Edmonton has the sixth-worst record in the NHL, and in that span McDavid and Draisaitl rank sixth and 20th, respectively. It’s not a terrible run of production by any stretch — you have to go down to 30th to find the first Canadiens players, Tomas Tatar, over that same stretch, and that’s nearly a point-per-game pace — but when you are a team relying on two players for the majority of the offence, any dip will have an effect.
When both Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid don’t have a single point in a game, the @EdmontonOilers just can’t win. 26 losses in a row when this happens.— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) December 21, 2019
At the other end, Koskinen could no longer withstand the barrage he was facing on a nightly basis, and the goals allowed began to rocket up.
The Oilers are still hanging near the top of a Pacific Division that has no team able to run away with the crown, but several teams below are threatening to force the Oilers into a wild-card race. The situation is very similar to what the Canadiens are facing on their side of the rankings, though they are currently trending in the opposite direction.
The Canadiens understand as well as anyone how potent the Oilers’ offence can be, and that even in a slump they’re a dangerous opponent. In the first meeting of last year’s season series, Edmonton posted six goals on Antti Niemi, with three of those set up by McDavid. The win was deserved as the Habs were outshot 43-29.
A more confident Canadiens team than the one that rolled into Edmonton during a disastrous November a year ago likely won’t allow so many shots tonight. They also get the benefit of catching their opponent on the second night of a back-to-back set, and this after not having two consecutive days off going back to December 4.
Montreal should have no sympathy for their competition considering how compressed their own schedule had been to start the season. They can take advantage of some fatigue to secure a winning record on the first phase of the late-December road trip.