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When Montreal finally snapped an eight-game losing streak on December 3, most people though that they had seen the worst stretch from the team this season. Surely there were lessons learned that would carry throughout the remainder of the campaign, especially regarding the defensive game. If Montreal was going to overcome a stretch spanning a 10th of the season without a win and make the playoffs, that had to be the end of the woes on the back end.
But it wasn’t. A good December had the Canadiens going into the Christmas break feeling good about their game, but they came out the other side with another losing streak that has now reached six games.
As bad as the eight-gamer was, at least the Canadiens were mostly losing to non-playoff teams (I guess you can spin that as a positive thing in this case). Four of the six losses on this new run of poor form have been to teams they might be directly battling with if it comes down to the wild-card race.
Added together, that’s about a sixth of the season in two separate losing streaks, with a total of four points earned from overtime defeats.
In trying to snap their skid, the Canadiens get presented with what should be the best possible opponent. They’re on to road to take on the last-place Detroit Red Wings; a team with only 10 victories on the season, and sitting 13 points behind the next-worst club.
Tale of the Tape
|53.9% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||46.4% (29th)|
|3.12 (14th)||Goals per game||2.14 (31st)|
|3.21 (23rd)||Goals against per game||3.81 (31st)|
|21.7% (11th)||PP%||15.7% (26th)|
|76.9% (24th)||PK%||73.6% (30th)|
Last season there was no contest between these two teams. Montreal won all four games and won them handily with a 21-7 goal advantage. A repeat was to be expected given Detroit’s current rebuilding state and Montreal’s aspirations for the post-season entering 2019-20.
The series with the Red Wings has been another of the year’s disappointments. Detroit has already secured at least a draw with Montreal by winning the opening two games in regulation. The Canadiens have just three goals as well, netting two in a 4-2 loss on October 10, then getting stymied on home ice by Jonathan Bernier on December 14, firing 43 shots on net but beating the Laval native just a single time.
Now that Brendan Gallagher is out of the lineup, such low-scoring affairs have become common over the past week. Since scoring five against Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers, Montreal had one in the game Gallagher sustained his concussion in on New Year’s Eve, and again on January 2. In the last two games they’ve managed just two goals in each. The last three defeats have all had a margin of a single goal.
There is some positive news. In his Canadiens debut, Ilya Kovalchuk looked quite strong, and that was in his first game after sitting in the press box for two months with the Los Angeles Kings. He had some chances, and finished with among the most attempts on goal on the night. He was on the ice for both goals Montreal scored, and registered his first point for his new team on Ben Chiarot’s second goal of the night.
If Montreal can replicate its performance from the last meeting with about 40 shots, or even just do exactly what they did in last night’s game, he will get plenty more looks to score his first as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Even with all the injuries, the Habs should be heavily favoured to come out with a win, and there’s no excuse for them not proving to be the better club.