How to watch
Start time: 10:30 PM EST / 7:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Kings region: Fox Sports-West
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
Friday night, under the bright lights of Broadway, the Canadiens were tenacious in overcoming a 1-0 deficit en route to a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Saturday night, watched by 21,273 pairs of eyes eagerly anticipating a performance worthy of a playoff contender, the Canadiens forgot the game’s start time and were down 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins before they knew what hit them.
Such is the life of a team on the bubble.
Now, with their playoff hopes hanging on by a thread, the Canadiens embark upon their old nemesis: the state of California, hoping to — as they have all season — exceed expectations borne of past precedent.
Tale of the Tape
|54.0% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||48.3% (22nd)|
|3.02 (13th)||Goals per game||2.40 (30th)|
|2.92 (13th)||Goals against per game||3.14 (22nd)|
|12.4% (31st)||PP%||15.7 (26th)|
|80.1% (19th)||PK%||75.0% (30th)|
First on the docket is a trip to Tinseltown. The Los Angeles Kings, sitting at the bottom of the Pacific Division with a record of 24-33-8, are far from the powerhouse that twice emerged as Stanley Cup champions this decade. The Kings have always had difficulties scoring goals, but this year’s offensive drought is particularly dire, leaving the franchise 30th in goals for. To make matters worse, whereas the Kings usually made up for their below-average scoring with one of the league’s stingiest defences, they have already allowed more goals against this year in 65 games (207) than they did all of last season (203).
Much of the cause for this turn of events can perhaps be placed at the skates of two individuals. When Drew Doughty signed his eight-year, $88-million contract extension last July, neither player nor team could have anticipated the struggles that the captain would face in the coming season. In 2018-19, Doughty has the same number of even-strength goals as Victor Mete, and the Kings are a worse team in terms of possession statistics both offensively and defensively with him on the ice compared to without. Most damning is the fact that with their main defenceman on the ice, the Kings have a 42.7% goals-for share; without him, that number is 50.4%.
The other culprit can be found between the goalposts. After last year’s Jennings Trophy-winning performance, Jonathan Quick finds himself in unfamiliar territory: the holder of a sub-.900 save percentage. Quick’s goals saved above average (GSAA) stat of -17.84 is second-worst in the league, ahead of only Keith Kinkaid and behind Antti Niemi’s -10.10 value. Despite the fact that Quick has been eclipsed statistically by backup (and goalie of the future?) Jack Campbell (.927 save percentage, 2.24 goals-against average), the veteran has not been displaced from the Kings’ net, starting 18 of the 25 games the Kings have played in 2019.
The Kings, after winning three straight to bring themselves within five points of a wild-card spot with a game in hand on February 7, proceeded to unceremoniously lose 10 consecutive games to close out the month. A 6-3 win to open March has put some wind back in the sails of the Angelenos, but once again, past history be damned, the Canadiens find themselves with something to prove against an opponent that they should defeat. With the much stronger San Jose Sharks looming in the wings, two points right off the bat might mean the difference between a rejuvenating road trip and an unchecked disaster.