Montreal Canadiens @ New York Rangers
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Rangers region: MSG
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
After letting the Toronto Maple Leafs off the mat and turning in a pathetic performance in New Jersey, a visit to Detroit proved to be just what the Canadiens needed. After a relatively quiet opening frame, the Habs exploded for five second-period goals en route to an 8-1 win. The offensive glut allowed several members of the Canadiens to get the proverbial monkey off their backs: Jonathan Drouin recorded a four-assist night after going pointless in his previous seven games, while Andrew Shaw tallied his first career hat trick after scoring just twice in his last nine.
Tale of the Tape
|53.9% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||46.3% (30th)|
|3.03 (12th)||Goals per game||2.86 (21st)|
|2.91 (13th)||Goals against per game||3.32 (24th)|
|12.7% (30th)||PP%||20.9 (15th)|
|80.1% (18th)||PK%||77.2% (27th)|
The Canadiens will look to build on that performance tonight as they head to Madison Square Garden to play yet another team which has committed this season to a rebuild. The New York Rangers currently sit 7th in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 27-26-10, and—following a poor October and a hot November—have been essentially treading water ever since, something encapsulated by their .500 point percentage over the last ten games.
Having traded Mats Zuccarello (4th in team scoring) and Kevin Hayes (3rd in team scoring) prior to the Trade Deadline, the Rangers are unlikely to see their fortunes rise in the remainder of the season. At the same time, the team still possesses offensive firepower in the form of Mika Zibanejad (27 goals) and old friend Chris Kreider (26 goals), so the Habs would be well-served to not rest on their laurels.
The Rangers had perhaps hoped for breakout seasons from their young stars, but while Pavel Buchnevich (25 points in 46 games) has more or less matched last year’s offensive pace, Vladislav Namestnikov (23 points in 59 games) has not lived up to the potential that the Rangers thought they saw when they made him the cornerstone of their return for Ryan McDonagh.
To make matters worse—or perhaps because of the diminished quality of the team’s roster— the usually reliable Henrik Lundqvist is not having a Lundqvist-like season. Currently sitting with a save percentage of .907 and a goals against average of 3.04, the King is putting up the worst individual statistics of his career. More damning, backup Alexandar Georgiev’s numbers (.902 and 3.18) are not far off Lundqvist’s.
On Tuesday night, with the team badly in need of a win, Claude Julien went with Carey Price for the second consecutive night. Now, facing another back-to-back situation and with the Pittsburgh Penguins on-deck, Julien needs to decide whether he wants to go with the inconsistent Antti Niemi against the statistically weaker team, start Price with the aim of stringing together consecutive wins and building momentum (thus saving Niemi for the Pens), or selecting the nuclear option and planning to start Price in all four games of these two back-to-backs.
No matter who the coach chooses to start in goal, the rest of the team, with both the Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes nipping at their heels, needs to channel the positives of the performance in Detroit going forward. Netminder aside, the Canadiens lack the elite skill to turn a game around in an instant and as such, find it difficult to escape games that they should lose with points. Tuesday night, Drouin, Shaw, and Max Domi stepped up to the plate. Who will it be Friday night under the bright lights of Manhattan?