How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet East, West, Pacific, 360, CityTV (English), TVA (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
After Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Montreal Canadiens find themselves with an approximately 35% chance to make the playoffs, according to Micah Blake McCurdy’s model.
Fortunately for them, this situation is still superior to the one that faced them on March 17 after their defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Habs responded to that crisis with seven points of the eight available in their next four games. While their fate may not be in their own hands anymore, a repeat performance to close the season would go a long way to putting pressure on both the Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes.
Tale of the Tape
|54.0% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||48.6% (20th)|
|2.99 (15th)||Goals per game||3.35 (7th)|
|2.90 (13th)||Goals against per game||2.95 (15th)|
|12.3% (31st)||PP%||25.5% (4th)|
|80.8% (15th)||PK%||79.1% (23rd)|
Winnipeg and the resident Jets are the first stop on the Canadiens’ redemption tour. While the Jets had punched their ticket to the post-season some time ago, what was once a comfortable run to the division title has been detoured by lukewarm play of late. After a middling 5-5-0 record in their last 10 games, the Jets find themselves sitting, prior to Friday night’s games, only two points ahead of the Nashville Predators for the division lead ... who were only two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues for third ... who were only two points ahead of the Dallas Stars for fourth.
While this exposes some of the weaknesses of a Jets team that hasn’t quite achieved the lofty standards set last season, it also means that the Habs will face a home team that still has everything to play for.
Of course, competitive fire didn’t pose a problem for the Canadiens the last time these two teams met: a 5-2 win where the Habs poured 53 shots on Connor Hellebucyk. That game, among others, served as demonstrated proof that the Canadiens, when they bring their A game, showed that the Habs can compete with the elite of the NHL.
And compete with the elite of the NHL is exactly what these Canadiens will have to do if they’re at least going to keep the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets honest down the stretch. Having denied neither Carolina nor Columbus the full two points in direct meetings over the past week, and with Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Toronto remaining on the schedule, playoff expectations for the Habs are likely considerably lower than on March 17, regardless of what the mathematical models may say.
Perhaps this is where the Canadiens need to be. After all, this was a team that entered the season shorn of all expectations and responded with fearless, aggressive hockey. Will Winnipeg show a Habs team that has recaptured that same style of play which propelled them into contention and captivated a fanbase, or will it show a Habs team that has betrayed the ethos that got them here?