How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NHL Network
In the Penguins region: ATTSN Pittsburgh
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens seemed to have turned a corner when they put an eight-game losing behind then in mid-December. Flying high heading into the holiday break, the Florida trip was a chance to really cement themselves in a great position for the second-half push to a playoff spot.
Instead they started off with two losses to divisional opponents to drop in the standings, fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in their chance to at least salvage a winning record on a seven-game road stretch, and then doubled down on the initial loss to Tampa Bay at Amalie arena by once again coming up one goal short when the Bell Centre hosted the rematch five days later.
Montreal’s losing streak to Eastern Conference opponents extends to five games when you add the loss to Detroit before they hit the road. While the NHL-worst Red Wings are no threat to pass Montreal in the standings, this sequence of losses to conference opponents has Montreal closer to ranking second-last in the East (six points up on New Jersey) than they are to climbing back into a post-season position (six back of the Tampa Bay Lightning, needing seven to overcome the fact they gave up the season-series tiebreaker).
The truth of the matter is that the Canadiens needed to win some of the games they played over the past week, and they didn’t even earn a point. It would take a run akin to what the St. Louis Blues managed starting at around this point last year, and this Habs team isn’t nearly healthy enough to make that happen.
Marc Bergevin isn’t giving up on making the post-season — mostly because his recent track record won’t allow him to do so. Needing to get his team a playoff berth, but also trying to keep the future prospects of the team intact, he’s made a few moves in recent days to try to plug some holes and keep the boat from capsizing entirely. Tonight versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, we should see the first game from at least one of them.
Tale of the Tape
|3.17 (12th)||Goals per game||3.40 (7th)|
|3.22 (23rd)||Goals against per game||2.67 (6th)|
|22.9% (9th)||PP%||18.8% (18th)|
|76.0% (25th)||PK%||80.7% (16th)|
Marc Bergevin finally landed Marco Scandella after rumours and reports of interest for several seasons. Even with so many injuries in the forward corps, the defence has the been the most troubled group for the Canadiens, and the general manager decided he had to finally do something to try to stabilize the blue line with the season rapidly slipping away. We’ll see where Claude Julien wants to slot his new defenceman, but wherever that is, Brett Kulak is most likely to be the one replaced.
The coach will be hoping to get a performance similar to what his club produced the last time the two teams met. Montreal surrendered just a single goal to Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins when they met on December 10; the last time Montreal beat an Eastern Conference opponent in regulation.
The Penguins are still very much in the playoff chase despite major injuries to their squad, the biggest absence being Sidney Crosby’s. Jake Guentzel joined him on the Injured Reserve list on New Year’s Eve, and is now expected to be out of action at least through the first round of the post-season.
Those injuries should be giving Alex Galchenyuk major minutes and seeing him generate plenty of points, and that is starting to become the case in recent games. Since being on the ice for under seven minutes in Edmonton on December 20, his ice time has been steadily climbing since, up to a high of 20:13 on Thursday while playing on the top line; the most he’s been granted with his third NHL franchise. He’s responded with two goals and two assists in his past two games, which is closer to what the team was hoping for when they acquired him.
Max Domi, the player Montreal acquired for Galchenyuk back in the summer of 2018, is on an even better run. While he did have a six-game goal-scoring streak snapped by another acrobatic save from Andrei Vasilevskiy on Thursday, he recorded an assist on the only goal Montreal managed in the contest to extend his point streak to eight. Julien was happy with how his line was playing in an attempt to generate offence, and that meant Domi got his greatest ice time since November 23 as the team sought an equalizer.
His trio that has Artturi Lehkonen and Nick Suzuki on the flanks has responded well after the tough outing in Tampa Bay, and is quickly, becoming the go-to unit in Brendan Gallagher’s absence. They will surely see plenty of time again tonight.