How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Devils region: MSG
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens didn’t get the same quality of performance out of Carey Price on Sunday afternoon that they had grown used to in January. Getting beaten on a clean look in the first period set a tone for the game, and Montreal was unable to climb out of a hole versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Knowing the importance of the game for their playoff hopes the Canadiens kept pressing, even when they went down two goals with two minutes left. Shea Weber got one of them back, but they couldn’t find a second, falling two more points behind one of the teams they were trying to catch.
If the tough losses were only coming to top clubs this season, the Canadiens would probably have much better odds at overtaking the likes of Blue Jackets, and may even sit in a post-season position themselves. But they’ve also dropped too many games to teams who haven’t mustered many wins otherwise, and that’s their real downfall this season. Tonight they play one of those clubs, the New Jersey Devils, who have claimed both games played so far.
Tale of the Tape
|54.1% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||47.6% (27th)|
|3.04 (17th)||Goals per game||2.63 (27th)|
|3.06 (15th)||Goals against per game||3.53 (30th)|
|20.1% (11th)||PP%||14.8% (28th)|
|79.5% (19th)||PK%||79.3% (20th)|
The Devils have just 45 points through 51 games to rank 29th in the NHL standings. Both an anemic offence and a porous defence combine to give them the league’s second-worst goal differential. They’ve also won less than a third of the games played in their own arena.
You wouldn’t believe any of that if you’d only seen them play the two games against the Habs. They scored 10 goals in the two games at the Bell Centre to secure four points (Montreal got one by forcing them to overtime on November 16), coming from nine different players. There are only six players on the roster who have more than six goals this season.
With playoffs definitely out of reach for New Jersey and unlikely for Montreal, perhaps the most entertaining aspect tonight is seeing how the trade candidates and young players fare leading up to the deadline.
Former Devil Ilya Kovalchuk will be a main focus for pro scouts in attendance. He added another point to his total with the Habs by setting up Weber’s late goal on Sunday afternoon, now has 10 points in 12 games since joining the team on January 3. Available for just pennies at the deadline, it’s going to be hard for contending teams to pass on adding his offence, even if just to avoid the possibility of an opponent scooping him up instead.
They may also like Nick Cousins’s status as a pending RFA, giving them a chance to add a bottom-line player and having some control in whether he sticks around for another year. Nate Thompson and Dale Weise are other options teams could be looking at to shore up their depth.
On the opposite side, it’s Sami Vatanen who could be playing one of his final games on New Jersey’s blue line before joining his third NHL team. The Devils are currently without a second- or third-round pick for the draft, and need to get some early-round picks in trades to take advantage of their low position.
Looking at the more long-term options on each side, it should be the kind of game in which Nick Suzuki can show off his skills. He’s won the second-line centre role in his rookie season, and has been getting increasingly comfortable with the NHL game. Jack Hughes isn’t having nearly as much success in his first year, with just 17 points so far, but he’s sure to become a force in due time. They’ll be two of the major players in the matchup going forward, perhaps even facing off as top-line centres in the not-too-distant future.