How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Lightning region: SUN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
The Montreal Canadiens passed the first trial on their quest to run the table over the final eight days of the season. They outplayed the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night, coming away with a crucial 3-1 win.
Since the Habs last played, the Columbus Blue Jackets added another win — another regulation win — to move up two points and secure the ROW tiebreaker in that battle. However, the Carolina Hurricanes lost their game to the Pittsburgh Penguins, leaving their advantage over Montreal at just a single point, and making them the new target in Montreal’s playoff push.
Now it’s time for the Canadiens to break away from the scoreboard watching and get back down to business. Their opponents don’t get any easier over the final week, and none are tougher than the best team in the NHL Montreal will host tonight.
Tale of the Tape
|54.2% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||51.7% (9th)|
|2.98 (15th)||Goals per game||3.47 (4th)|
|2.85 (13th)||Goals against per game||3.01 (17th)|
|12.9% (30th)||PP%||21.9% (8th)|
|80.8% (14th)||PK%||80.3% (16th)|
The Tampa Bay Lightning secured top spot in the league so early that only one other team, the Calgary Flames, were locked into a post-season berth at the time. No matter what they do, they’re not relinquishing the coveted reward of getting to start every one of their playoff series on home ice.
Despite not needing any more wins after the 4-1 decision on March 18, Tampa Bay has knocked off the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, and desperate Hurricanes since. However, the Lightning had lost two of their last three games (to the marching St. Louis Blues and in a bit of redemption for the Capitals) before earning a 5-2 win in Ottawa last night.
With their status as the number-one seed in the Eastern Conference, the only question is which team the Lightning will face in the first round. The three teams battling for wild-card spots are their potential opponents.
In the first game of a back-to-back set last night, Andrei Vasilevskiy was given the start, leaving former St. John’s IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale to take the crease on Tuesday night in Montreal. That could be a fair indication that they wouldn’t mind seeing Montreal come to town for the Eastern Conference Quarter-final, and therefore they may not put up their greatest fight to eliminate Montreal from contention — which would suit the Habs just fine.
With Victor Hedman already ruled out for the remaining regular-season games, the Lightning could decide their second start in 24 hours is a good opportunity to rest a few more players. We will know closer to game time if that is the approach they’ll take.
No matter what the other team intends, the Canadiens’ goal doesn’t change. They need the win, and even outplaying the Lightning in a few games hasn’t allowed Montreal to achieve that feat this season. It’s no secret that the Lightning’s roster is superior to the Canadiens’ —- it is to those of 29 other teams as well — and removing a few players only helps to level the playing field rather than tilt it in Montreal’s favour.
Nevertheless, Tampa Bay shouldn’t be able to match the intensity of a team backed into the corner when they have no real stake in the fight themselves. The two points will be there for the taking, and securing them would make Montreal’s lofty task of finishing the year on a four-game winning streak become much more feasible.