How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Now (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens took care if the two tasks set before them on Thursday. They beat the Washington Capitals for the second time this season to win the season series, and in the process limited Alex Ovechkin to just a single goal, That left him one short of the 700 milestone he’s been chasing, ensuring the Habs won’t be featured in that highlight for the two-to-three years it takes him to get to 800.
They did it with a good overall game. Once again they couldn’t hold on to a late lead, but the defensive game was strong enough to at least prevent the Capitals from going up a goal before the horn sounded at the ends of regulation. They controlled the play in overtime, and that allowed them to snuff out a five-match losing before it became one of the infamous eight-gamers they’ve been dealt this year.
Surely feeling some relief, and perhaps a bit of confidence, the Canadiens can go into tonight’s game versus the Ottawa Senators with some positive energy, which is good for a group that may be playing its last game together before Monday’s trade deadline.
Tale of the Tape
|54.1% (3rd)||Corsi-for pct.||47.7% (27th)|
|2.97 (18th)||Goals per game||2.69 (23rd)|
|3.08 (17th)||Goals against per game||3.34 (28th)|
|19.5% (19th)||PP%||15.1% (28th)|
|79.3% (20th)||PK%||77.7% (22nd)|
Being the last game for both teams before all the dealing takes place, we usually see a player or two sat on either side as a final precaution to avoid a freak injury. Montreal doesn’t really have that luxury right now, with just about the bare minimum number of healthy bodies to make their 20-man lineup.
The Canadiens were forced to play with five defenders for almost the full game on Thursday. They had to use an emergency recall last night to get their complement of defencemen up to six. Karl Alzner was the man tapped for the assignment, and he’s slated to dress for his first game in over 13 months. He’s looked good in Laval, and embraced his role there. Now he gets another stint in Montreal, as brief as it may be before reinforcements can be added.
The Senators have played the entire season with their focus on this stage of the season. Last year they played a major part in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ stockpiling of talent at the deadline, and they’ll once again be distributing their NHL players around the league in exchange for draft picks and prospects.
The Ottawa organization is seeing the effects of that work this year. Their AHL club, the Belleville Senators, is one of the minor league’s best teams, with by far the most prolific offence. As those prospects make their way to the NHL over the next couple of seasons, the NHL club will be able to compete once more, completing the rebuild cycle.
Most of the players the Canadiens will be facing off against tonight are on deals that expire this season. Rental options like Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ron Hainsey, and Craig Anderson are mixed in with players headed for restricted free agency like Anthony Duclair.
Tonight is the beginning of a shift for both teams. Players with their eyes on a playoff run will have one final attempt to catch the eye of scouts in attendance, while the young players on both sides see their chance to seize a spot in the core going forward. We’ll see how that all manifests when the puck is dropped at Canadian Tire Centre.