Montreal Canadiens @ New Jersey Devils
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Devils region: MSG+
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
Presented with a chance to move within a point of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third seed in the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens got off to a great start with a 3-0 lead. As the game progressed, that sizeable advantage evaporated, and the Canadiens eventually fell by a 6-3 score. Instead up getting to within a point, the Habs ended up five points back in the Atlantic race, and are now tied with the hard-charging Carolina Hurricanes and ever-dangerous Pittsburgh Penguins for a wild-card position.
Having two points slip out of what seemed like a firm grip on Saturday, the Canadiens can’t afford to be handed a second consecutive loss, especially when they need to start building some confidence on the road.
The New Jersey Devils should give them a great chance to get that important win, not only because of their low ranking in the standings, but also because that position should have them selling off a player or two, like pending unrestricted free agent Marcus Johansson, ahead of today’s trade deadline.
Tale of the Tape
|53.8% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||47.4% (28th)|
|2.98 (14th)||Goals per game||2.92 (17th)|
|2.95 (15th)||Goals against per game||3.39 (29th)|
|13.0% (30th)||PP%||18.9 (17th)|
|79.1% (21st)||PK%||83.8% (4th)|
One player who won’t be listed in any (credible) trade rumours is Nico Hischier. The sophomore is on pace for another 20-goal, 50-point season, sitting second on the team in points. He had a goal in the first meeting with the Habs on November 21, and was the difference-maker in a come-from-behind win on February 2, scoring the tying goal in the third and then the winner in overtime.
He may have to put in a similar effort to get his team a win tonight. Other than the potential deadline deletions, the Devils are also missing defenceman Sami Vatanen, Pavel Zacha (who also has a two-goal game versus Montreal this season) and superstar Taylor Hall, who has now been out for nearly two months with a lower-body injury.
The Canadiens are still enjoying having their roster nearly fully healthy (pending the efficiency of Jonathan Drouin’s immune system). On the quality of personnel available for tonight’s game alone, the odds should be significantly in Montreal’s favour to earn the win tonight.
Even with the stats and quality of competition largely backing the visiting team, the Canadiens still have to commit themselves until the final whistle. Such a consistent performance has become less common recently, and it’s been reflected in their record. Strong play sees them in full control for a period or two, but a lapse in that effort always finds a way to lead to goals against. The Canadiens’ best all-around players play the forward position, allowing for great possession in the attacking end of the ice, but the defence can get exposed once the play comes back the other way. For Montreal, offence in their best defence, so it’s something they need to maintain to give themselves the best chance at racking up a few wins.
After tonight, they head right to Detroit and then to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers in two very winnable games versus low-ranking teams. It’s a chance to earn a bit of breathing room in the wild-card race and get a bit of confidence before a critical matchup with the Penguins on Saturday.