How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
In the Blackhawks region: NBCSCH
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens had a great start on Monday night, and they managed to carry that effort for a full 60 minutes to earn a win versus the Calgary Flames. They found one goal fairly quickly, as Jordan Weal made it 1-0 before the first period was over, but with so many injuries, despite all their offensive-zone time, the second proved more difficult.
As we’ve seen quite often in recent months, the team seems to get frustrated when those lofty shot totals don’t result in more goals, and they can start to press and overextend to make a goal happen, even when already holding a lead. Again on Monday that was creating a few odd-man rushes in the final 40 minutes. The difference was that Carey Price was able to turn every one of them aside, going on to record his second shutout of the season with a strong game between the pipes. Had even one of those breakaways or two-on-ones led to a goal for the Flames, the confidence of the team could have been dashed, and the result very different.
They did finally add a second goal, thanks to the patience of Ryan Poehling around the net, to alleviate some of the pressure, some of which they had been placing on themselves. They were able to hang on, and will be gaining in confidence after consecutive wins.
They’ll take that into tonight’s game against a Chicago Blackhawks team in a similar position: with little hope of making the post-season, but just enough talent and enough games remaining to convince themselves they can.
Tale of the Tape
|1-1-0||H2H Record (18-19)||1-1-0|
|53.8% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||48.5% (23rd)|
|3.04 (14th)||Goals per game||2.87 (20th)|
|3.13 (19th)||Goals against per game||3.15 (21st)|
|20.9% (11th)||PP%||15.3% (27th)|
|78.3% (23rd)||PK%||82.6% (8th)|
Like tonight’s opponent, the Blackhawks are also dealing with a large number of injuries. The biggest ones for them are on defence, with both Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook out long-term, but they’re also missing Dylan Strome, Brandon Saad, and Andrew Shaw, who is dealing with the aftereffects of yet another concussion, and wont be able to make his return to the Bell Centre this evening.
Far from the dynasty they were in the 00s, the Blackhawks have missed the post-season for the past two years, and are staring at a third consecutive short season. You have to go back another two years to find the last time they won a playoff round; their last Stanley Cup championship in 2015.
One of those first-round exits came in 2016, after they had traded away a young centre prospect to add more veteran forwards from Montreal. While Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, and the Blackhawks only saw seven playoff games, Phillip Danault has become a very important player in Montreal, giving them a high-quality pivot at a time when that position was nearly vacant. He’s a top-line player for the Habs, once again a top-five possession player in the NHL this season. The Blackhawks have to be wondering how things would have turned out if they’d stuck with their prospect.
Instead their roster is headed by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, largely because their salary is eaten up by those two players. It’s entirely possible that even Danault’s $3 million contract would have been tough to work with, so he may have been on a different team anyway. Chicago makes up its depth with young forwards on entry-level contracts, and even then they’re using every trick in the book to stay cap-compliant.
They’re getting more than their money’s worth out of some of those players on ELCs. He’s having a bit of an off-year, but Alex DeBrincat has been an important offensive player. Right now it’s Czech free agent signee Dominik Kubalik complementing Kane’s scoring touch, now up to 18 goals on the season after netting two last night versus the Ottawa Senators.
For Montreal to get the win it really comes down to limiting what that small handful of scorers can do — and of course finding a way to score some goals of their own. It’s something the Canadiens have done decently well against Kane, considering the career point-per-game player has been held to seven goals and 14 points in 16 games versus the Habs. If they can keep that average intact, a third straight win is a good possibility.