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Given the quality of roster that the Canadiens were forced run with on Tuesday night in Tampa, the expected result was a lopsided loss in the first game the Habs had played in almost two weeks. Instead, the Habs matched up well with a team missing some star players of its own, though not nearly to the same degree.
There were NHL debuts for two players, and both had points in the game. Corey Schueneman helped set up a goal from his position on the back end, and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard played the same hard-nosed style that got him drafted and earned an NHL contract to score his first goal in the top league.
As was the case the last time Montreal and Tampa Bay met, the Canadiens played well enough to win, but weren’t able to hang on to achieve that result. On Tuesday they at least got a point to show for their troubles, and that was quite a feat given the number of AHL players in the formation.
Like Andrei Vasilevskiy last game, Frederik Anderson is in the COVID protocol and perhaps unavailable to perform his starting duties tonight in Carolina. However, just yesterday, the NHL announced new quarantine rules to align with recent government regulations in the United States, dropping the length of time needed to isolate down to five days, so it’s possible Andersen will be able to return earlier than expected.
Tale of the Tape
|47.7% (23rd)||Scoring-chances-for %||55.5% (3rd)|
|2.22 (29th)||Goals per game||3.28 (11th)|
|3.56 (31st)||Goals against per game||2.14 (1st)|
|12.5% (31st)||PP%||20.8% (12th)|
|71.6% (29th)||PK%||87.0% (3rd)|
That would be bad news for the makeshift Habs looking to have another good offensive night, because Andersen was putting together a stellar year with his new team after signing with the Hurricanes in the off-season. He’s currently sporting a .930 save percentage, and is one of the reasons why Carolina is sitting in third place in the NHL standings.
It could be Antti Raanta the Canadiens face instead, and a similar approach to that used on the attack earlier this week should provide scoring chances, though probably not quite as many as they just enjoyed. Even at their best, the Lightning are a middle-of-the-pack defensive team in terms of scoring chances allowed. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, rank fourth in the league in that respect, giving themselves the best opportunity to win with a high scoring-chance differential.
Leading the way on Montreal’s side could be Cole Caufield. We haven’t seen the season from him that we expected after his playoff performance, and he’s probably the most suprised of all, but he is starting to have a greater impact in games. In the final match before all the postponements were announced before the Christmas break, he had launched eight shots on goal while playing with Artturi Lehkonen. On Tuesday he was very involved in the play around the net, recording an assist and helping to create several other chances that didn’t result in goals.
One of the most impressive performance belonged to Jake Evans, especially considering who he was playing with. His wingers, Alex Belzile and Jesse Ylönen, are far from experienced NHL veterans, yet Evans managed to lead the team in high-danger chances while also putting in the most work among the forwards on the penalty kill. This 200-foot game is what forced the Habs to protect him in the expansion draft, and he’s rewarding that decision.
There were no poor performances on Tuesday as every player knew the difficulty of the task and played to his best ability to get a good result. Against a very good team missing few skaters from the lineup, they may all need to find an even higher level to surprise their opponent.