How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EST / 5:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Predators region: Fox Sports - Tennessee
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
Coming off their bye week, the Montreal Canadiens face two critical stretches of their schedule as they attempt to cement their grip on a playoff position. The first of these was three-games against teams who sit well behind them in the standings; the second, a four-game stretch against the elite of the league. Five games in, the Habs have secured eight of a possible ten points en route to sitting comfortably in the first wild-card position — four points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and five up on the Carolina Hurricanes.
However, ahead of the Habs lie arguably their biggest challenges of this portion of the schedule: the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. The first stop for the Habs as they depart the snowy confines of Montreal is the Music City, where a few old friends await their arrival.
Tale of the Tape
|54.3% (3rd)||Corsi-for pct.||52.7% (7th)|
|3.04 (13th)||Goals per game||3.07 (12th)|
|2.89 (10th)||Goals against per game||2.59 (4th)|
|13.5% (30th)||PP%||13.1% (31st)|
|79.3% (20th)||PK%||81.3% (11th)|
Largely predicted to be one of the teams which would separate themselves from the pack in the Western Conference, the Predators have been disappointing by their own lofty expectations. Injuries to key players including Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and P.K. Subban haven’t helped their cause, but the Predators come into this matchup having dropped three consecutive decisions despite having a more-or-less healthy roster.
Forsberg (37 points in 42 games) and Arvidsson (33 in 35) have been their usual productive selves, but the Predators have lacked both consistency and secondary scoring. Nashville has scored 21 goals in February through seven games, with either Forsberg or Arvidsson recording a point on a whopping 11 of them. The Predators will need more production from the likes of Kevin Fiala (nine so far after 23 last season) and P.K. Subban (five and 16) if they are to re-establish themselves as the cream of the crop in the West.
That said, the team has been bolstered by an unexpected offensive surge from Mattias Ekholm. Often considered the d’Artagnan of the Predators blueline quartet, Ekholm has already set a new career high in points for a single season. He’s sitting third in overall team scoring with 40 points in 59 games, and has partially offset a disappointing season (from a scoresheet perspective) from the aforementioned Subban and Ryan Ellis (six goals in 59 games this year, nine in 44 the previous year).
Despite everything, the pedigree of the Predators as one of the league’s elite is still unquestioned as evidenced by how they marched into the Bell Centre on January 5, still beset by many of the same issues as they are today, and summarily put the Canadiens to the sword to the tune of 4-1. In that game, the Predators controlled the game out of the gate, quickly replied when the Habs cut their lead in half midway through the second period, and then simply smothered the Habs’ attack in the final frame. The Canadiens will need to rise to the challenge as they face off against a team that knows it can be better than what they have shown in 2019 thus far.