How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet East, CityTV (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Blackhawks region: WGN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
The Montreal Canadiens just weren’t as prepared for Thursday night’s game as the New York Islanders seemed to be. Carey Price was under siege from the opening faceoff, doing his best to be the difference-maker in the game, and was doing just that until a two-on-one for the Islanders late in the third eventually got the home team the win it deserved.
Losses are starting to mount at a bad time for Montreal. They have just two wins in the last six games, not even earning a point from those losses by getting a game to overtime.
The talk in the room has been around needing to have a better effort for the past couple of weeks, though that has rarely materialized in the following game. The team that made its identity on a quick transition game and pressure on the puck has been the second-best team at too many stages of their recent contests.
Andrew Shaw took the post-game criticisms to another level after the poor performance against the Islanders, stating that every player needed to be better if the Canadiens are going to see out this regular season with a playoff berth.
He gets a chance to lead by example after his comments, and can spoil the post-season aspirations of the team that traded him away in the process.
Tale of the Tape
|54.2% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||48.9% (19th)|
|2.96 (15th)||Goals per game||3.39 (8th)|
|2.96 (14th)||Goals against per game||3.70 (31st)|
|12.1% (31st)||PP%||20.9% (12th)|
|80.5% (17th)||PK%||73.0% (31st)|
The odds are slim for the Chicago Blackhawks to make the post-season after a dismal start to the year. But the incompetence of the midfield in the Western Conference never truly knocked them out of contention, and they’re as close to a wild-card spot as they currently are because of a great response after the All-Star break.
With a record of 18-24-9 when the league’s stars convened on San Jose in late January, the Blackhawks have since gone 13-6-0. Despite the number of offensive forwards on the team, the power play was in the middle of the pack (20.3%) at the mid-season break, which wasn’t allowing them to overcome their league-worst defence. The team still ranks 31st in both goals agaisnt per game and penalty-killing efficiency, but a power play ranking seventh in the league since the beginning of Feburary is allowing them to just pip their opponents in many of their games, and they have been on the right side of five consecutive overtime results to boot.
It may not be enough to vault them into a playoff spot at the end of the season, but with nothing to lose at this point, the team is free to go out on the ice every night and enjoy the game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs learned first-hand what the team is capable of if you’re not prepared to start the match on time. While it was too late for the Leafs to learn that lesson when trailing 4-0 to Chicago after the first period on Saturday, it’s something the Canadiens’ leadership core can use to drive the point of needing a full-game effort home.
Montreal hosts a team it has already beaten once this season, even if it was in the disastrous first half of Chicago’s campaign. The Canadiens were the ones with the killer instinct on that night, as Tomas Tatar netted the game-winner with just over a minute left.
A sweep of the season series is of great importance for Montreal. The result of last night’s contest between the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t go the way they needed it to, as Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 46 shots to earn another two points for the team immedaitely ahead of the Canadiens. Montreal is now two points back of both clubs, with the ROW tiebreaker getting out of reach.
If the Canadiens want to get into the playoffs, it’s looking like they may have to have more points than one of the two teams currently above them. Getting back to their relentless style of play — from the opening shift — has to be the game plan for the final three weeks.