How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Islanders region: MSG+
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
It wasn’t looking good for the Montreal Canadiens after the team seemed to have little to fight with at Nassau Coliseum last Thursday, followed by a much better effort but the same lack of production that has plagued them for weeks now two days later versus the Chicago Blackhawks. But a combination of a critical victory over the Philadelphia Flyers that removed one of their potential competitors from the playoff race, and a loss by the team immediately above them in the wild-card chase has them right back in the mix.
The gap is now one point, but with the regulation and overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker heavily in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ favour, the difference is essentially two. All that means is that Montreal probably has to be ahead of them when the season concludes rather than just tied to make it.
It will still be a difficult task to go toe-to-toe with a team that traded in its future for a shot at a deep playoff run this year, adding several potent forwards to a group that had been in the running for the Metro lead. Fortunately for Montreal, that offence has yet to mesh (other than one 7-4 win over the Boston Bruins), and they just need it to stay cold for a few more games.
Tale of the Tape
|54.2% (3rd)||Corsi-for pct.||47.2% (28th)|
|2.92 (18th)||Goals per game||2.77 (21st)|
|2.92 (14th)||Goals against per game||2.37 (1st)|
|11.9% (31st)||PP%||15.1% (29th)|
|80.3% (18th)||PK%||81.1% (12th)|
Leaving Columbus to handle their own business, the Canadiens are at home tonight to focus on some of theirs. If Carey Price plays the same way he did versus the New York Islanders last Thursday, Montreal will have a great chance to win the final meeting of the year. If the team looks as outmatched as they did while allowing 18 high-danger chances in front of the netminder that night, they could be in for a poor result.
The Islanders gave the Habs a taste of their own medicine in that contest, with fast starts to each period forcing Montreal on their heels when they’ve been used to going on the attack. The team was down a goal just 80 seconds in, and while they were able to tie it up before the opening frame ended, they never looked like they really had a chance of coming away with the victory. It’s a testament to just how well Price played that the winning goal wasn’t scored until the final three minutes.
Shea Weber and Victor Mete had a particularly difficult time dealing with the Islanders’ forecheck and cycle games, both below a 40% Corsi-for percentage on the night. In the important game versus the Flyers on Tuesday, the duo was deployed less than the one comprised of Brett Kulak and Jeff Petry, and given a more offensive assignments by the coaching staff. (That latter move paid dividends as Weber scored the game-winning goal.)
To best the Islanders this evening, Montreal will have to do a better job of preventing shots from point-blank range — preferably by playing the majority of the game as far away from their net as possible. With Price likely about to begin a stretch of starting three games in four nights, he’d be the biggest beneficiary of such a shift in play this time around.
The snap of a long slump by one or two of the forwards would also be a big help, but the team can count on the ever-reliable Brendan Gallagher to give his team a fighting chance. He’s already matched the career high in goals he set last year, and you can expect that total of 31 will only grow as he expends every last drop of energy over the final nine games.
Two big games are approaching, with visits to Carolina and Columbus in the next week. To make those four-point games mean something, they first have to get positive results in the two-game homestand that begins versus the top defensive team in the NHL.