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Canadiens @ Canucks: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

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The first of three games in Vancouver that will determine whether the Canadiens come home as front-runners or part of the pack.

Montreal Canadiens v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Vancouver Canucks

How to watch

Start time: 10:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Canucks region: Sportsnet Pacific
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live

After two high-scoring affairs, the Montreal Canadiens came back to Earth a little bit on Monday night. Fortunately, the Edmonton Oilers provided ample cushion for the fall.

To no one’s surprise, the Oilers came out of the gate fast, seeking atonement for their 5-1 defeat two nights prior. In stark contrast to last year’s team, these Canadiens held fast, absorbed Edmonton’s push, and even managed to reach the first intermission one-nil to the good courtesy of Alexander Romanov’s first NHL goal. They would add one more in each period, despite the best efforts of the officials, a strangely competent Mikko Koskinen, and their own ill-discipline, and that would be enough to depart the “City of Champions” with a full four points.

Their reward? The balmy embrace of the Pacific Ocean and three dates with the local Vancouver Canucks.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Canucks
Canadiens Statistic Canucks
2-0-1 Record 1-3-0
49.4% (17th) Corsi-for pct. 51.9% (13th)
4.00 (4th) Goals per game 2.25 (24th)
2.33 (11th) Goals against per game 4.00 (25th)
40.0% (4th) PP% 0.0% (26th)
85.7% (12th) PK% 66.7% (28th)
1-0-1 Head-to-head (19-20) 1-1-0

Despite the Canadiens’ performance in the bubble, they were not the Cinderella team of the 2019-20 playoffs. That glass slipper is firmly ensconced on the foot of their next opponent. The Canucks may not have surprised anyone in knocking off the Minnesota Wild to make the post-season, but few predicted that they would eliminate the defending champions St. Louis Blues and take the vaunted Vegas Golden Knights to a deciding Game 7.

Despite this success, the off-season would not be kind. Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev both felt the allure of Calgary’s petrodollars, while trade-deadline acquisition Tyler Toffoli headed east for Montreal, leaving Vancouver empty-handed. General manager Jim Benning did pull off one stroke of genius, taking advantage of Las Vegas’s cap crunch to land Nate Schmidt for pennies on the dollar. Benning has done little beyond that apart from bringing in an out-of-favour Braden Holtby to replace Markstrom and support Thatcher Demko, choosing instead to put his faith in the horses that brought his carriage to the ball.

If the Canucks had hoped to build on last year’s success, 2021 has proved to be a rude awakening. An opening-night win against the Oilers has been followed by three consecutive defeats, and Vancouver currently sits at the bottom of the North Division.

Very little has clicked. Offensively, Quinn Hughes is the only player with more than two points. Defensively, the team has a 66.7% penalty-killing efficiency. And in net, Demko has not recaptured his bubble form, while Holtby has been competent at best. The NHL debuts of Nils Höglander and Olli Juolevi have not been able to offset the struggles of Elias Petterson, Bo Horvat, and the rest of the team’s big guns.

Nonetheless, their talent has not simply vanished with the wave of a wand, and Montreal will have to ward against complacency facing a team that needs a positive result from their first homestand of the year. That means continuing to build upon the solid foundation established thus far, applying constant and consistent pressure throughout the game, and not giving a desperate opposition easy chances to get off the floor. Success in these three games will go a long way toward establishing Montreal as front-runners in the North. And ensuring that the clock strikes midnight on the Vancouver Canucks.