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It appeared that both the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning were having difficulty ramping up for a new season just three months after their Stanley Cup Final. The team from Florida started the year 2-3-1 without a regulation win, while Montreal lost their first five contests with a total of four goals scored. Tampa Bay has started to find its game since, however, going 13-2-3 since, while the Habs have not recovered.
On the subject of recoveries, Tyler Toffoli is the latest Habs player facing one of those, joining nearly half of his teammates on the sidelines. That’s obviously the most significant issue Montreal is dealing with this season, and now that the team is sitting in 31st place, there’s no reason for a player to play through even a minor ailment.
The question now is when Dominigue Ducharme will accept the situation facing his team and turn this season into the learning experience it should be for the younger players on the roster. The head coach remains reluctant to place them in key situations, despite the lineup now filling up with rookies, sophomores, and untested call-ups.
Tale of the Tape
|48.5% (21st)||Scoring-chances-for %||50.4% (17th)|
|2.13 (31st)||Goals per game||3.20 (10th)|
|3.52 (29th)||Goals against per game||2.60 (7th)|
|12.5% (31st)||PP%||18.7% (18th)|
|71.6% (29th)||PK%||79.1% (21st)|
|0-1-0||H2H Record (19-20)||1-0-0|
Even the healthy veterans are in for tough assignments tonight. Tampa Bay’s offence alone, one that averages more than a goal per game than Montreal’s, is enough reason to give them the edge, but they happen to rank as one of the top defensive teams as well.
The uninspired start to the season also applied to Andrei Vasilevskiy, so it’s unsurprising that his return to his usual form has coincided with the team’s turnaround. In those first five games, he finished above a .906 save percentage just once; he’s been below that number two times in his 14 appearances since.
Once more, the Lightning have been operating without Nikita Kucherov who is injured again. This year, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be out for the rest of the regular season, as he’s begun practising with the team. Tampa Bay is also not comfortable enough in a playoff position to keep him in reserve this year, thanks especially to a much-improved Detroit Red Wings squad that is keeping the pressure on in the Atlantic Division.
The Canadiens would surely love to be another team to made life difficult for not only a reigning Cup champion, but the club that denied them of being the ones to hold that title. That might be good motivation to bring forth their best effort, but with the state of the lineup, even a full 60-minute effort may not be enough.