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In Boston on Sunday night, Joel Armia finally scored his first goal of the season. It was a reminder of his above-average shot that pops up occasionally for a spectacular goal or three. It came on his 29th five-on-five scoring chance of the season after missing plenty of his previous ones.
Late in the second period, Montreal got a goal from what you would have called an unlikely source at the start of training camp, but we’re seeing a very confident Michael Pezzetta who has shifted up a couple of gears in his development. He’s typically been playing in the right place since his recall, and Sunday night it was at the right time to get his stick on a shot for his first NHL goal.
Even with two players netting their first of the year, the Canadiens couldn’t break through the two-goal limit that seems to be set on their production, so the flukiest of goals that was scored in the third period stood as the winner. Not only did that result bring an end to Montreal’s point streak, but gave them just one of the four points available to them in a set of two games versus divisional opponents ranked above them in the standings. The Habs are now six points back of those teams, who themselves are just clinging to post-season spots. Just a month into the season, Montreal’s hope of being in one of those spots at the end of the year is steadly slipping away.
At this point they can just try to keep putting good play together while they wait for players to return to the lineup. They had another great first period last game and survived the second with a lead, but maintaining that through the full 60 minutes is proving an impossible task.
The good news is they take on a team tonight that has nearly as much difficulty locking down opponents as they do.
Tale of the Tape
|51.7% (11th)||Scoring-chances-for %||42.3% (32nd)|
|2.12 (31st)||Goals per game||2.73 (23rd)|
|3.41 (29th)||Goals against per game||2.87 (17th)|
|14.3% (28th)||PP%||21.3% (13th)|
|70.7% (28th)||PK%||78.7% (22nd)|
Montreal ranks right at the bottom of the league for goals allowed in the third period, with 21, four of which came versus Boston. The New York Rangers are right there with them, giving up 20 goals in the final frame with two fewer games played, and hold a 1-3 record in overtime.
Despite that, they are still finding ways to win, even if they are making life more difficult on themselves than it needs to be. They enter tonight on a three-game winning streak, rebounding from a bad trip through Western Canada to knock off the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and New Jersey Devils. Tonight is the start of another slate versus Canadian teams that they will hope goes better than the last tour.
Canadiens fans will be annoyed to hear that it’s Chris Kreider leading the way for the club this year, He’s up to 11 goals on the season to rank third in the league behind Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin, and seven of them have come on the power, where he does his best Pezzetta impression to tip pucks on their path to the net. Given how much trouble Montreal’s defencemen have had in their own end, that will probably be an effective plan again.
As for the team’s play at five-on-five, it’s last year’s Norris Trophy-winner, Adam Fox, who carries the team’s play from the blue line. He leads them with eight points and is leaned on for 25 minutes per night, all while taking a total of six penalty minutes. At this rate, he’ll be high on the voting list again at the end of the season.
In terms of the flow of play, New York tends to give up more than it allows, and Fox is no exception with below-par metrics. It’s one of the worst teams at allowing shots and scoring chances, and the Canadiens are going to have to get more than their bottom-six options to take advantage of those defensive lapses to score some goals.