How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Red Wings region: Fox Sports Detroit
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
When the Montreal Canadiens lost an eighth consecutive game for the second time this season on January 9, they ranked 26th in the NHL, and sixth in the eight-team Atlantic Division. The team made a valiant effort over the next month; a 9-3-0 record that jumped them up above the Buffalo Sabres to fifth, just behind the Florida Panthers for fourth, and had a division seed at least visible on the horizon.
Then the losing bug struck the team once again. Despite getting out to a three-goal lead on Saturday night, they allowed the opposing team to score four times for the third outing in a row, watching what should have been a two-point result become just a one-point gain.
After a few results for their rivals since, the Canadiens sit sixth in the Atlantic Division once more, needing to start all over from the position they were in on January 9, with 16 fewer games to make that rise. It would have to start with one of the two teams they’ve played three times this season and failed to claim a single point against. Not the Presidents’ Trophy-contending Tampa Bay Lightning; the dead-last Detroit Red Wings
Tale of the Tape
|54.1% (3rd)||Corsi-for pct.||45.8% (31st)|
|2.95 (17th)||Goals per game||1.98 (31st)|
|3.07 (16th)||Goals against per game||3.74 (31st)|
|18.8% (21st)||PP%||14.6% (29th)|
|78.8% (20th)||PK%||75.5% (27th)|
It hasn’t been much of a contest to earn the best odds in the upcoming draft lottery as the league’s worst team. There’s a 15-point gap from the Red Wings to the 30th-place Los Angeles Kings. Detroit’s goal differential is the only one in the league to be -50 or worse; it’s -106.
Montreal kept that from reaching triple digits much earlier in the season. They’ve been outscored 10-6 in the three games of the season series so far. The Habs can claim the opposing goaltender stole two points in one of the matches, a 2-1 defeat on December 14 in which they outshot the Red Wings 43-20 but lost 2-1, but the other two games were evenly played, leaving the result in the hands of fate.
Were the Habs even 2-1 in those three games — taking 66.7% of the points versus a team allowing their adversaries to grab 73.8% of them so far — they’d be four points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the race to third in the Atlantic Division that none of the four competing teams seem all that interested in winning.
In the end, that overall mediocrity is why we even continue to mention the playoff odds. A team going on a run, like Montreal did over that recent 12-game stretch before tumbling back down the mountain, could be all it takes to jump up and grab the final spot.
Knowing that there’s still the faintest flicker of hope, Shea Weber’s prognosis for his recovery from an ankle injury has gone from four to six weeks to being a game-time decision in tonight’s contest. The only explanation is that he’s going to play through something he should be resting and allowing to heal, probably believing he’ll have plenty of time for that in a six-month off-season if the goal of making the playoffs isn’t reached. The fact that he is considering it — allowed to consider it — versus a team with just 14 wins on the year is a testament to the desperation of the situation.
It could also be the game that Paul Byron makes his return in, dressing for the first time in three months. The reassignment of Jake Evans hinted that that was going to be the case.
The team will hope that the return of the captain and one of his alternates can be the difference in leading the team to a first win over Detroit. A 1-3 record is nothing to celebrate when the expectation should be 3-1, but an 0-4 mark that runs the current losing streak to five games would force the team to ask some serious questions.