How to watch
Facing another tough team that they shouldn’t have had any chance against, the Montreal Canadiens more than held their own versus the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. Montreal went toe-to-toe with a team that has found its footing after a slow start, and had a well-deserved 2-1 lead with just minutes left to run off the clock.
What transpired over the final three minutes was simultaneously shocking and completely expected in this 2021-22 season. Montreal couldn’t defend the one-goal edge to earn the win in regulation, though was still poised to take a point from the defending Stanley Cup champion. Then one moment over-aggressive play on offence in the final minute completed the late collapse with a counter-attack goal.
For those who were cheering for a win for their team that only had half a dozen to that point, it was a maddening turn of events. For those who’ve already bought their jerseys and painted their faces for Team Tank, you couldn’t ask for a better result; Montreal proved a lineup made of several of its players of the future could compete with a top team’s mostly complete roster, had played almost a full game of consistent, entertaining hockey ... then tossed the points away at the last minute to preserve their spot in the lottery order.
Now they need to head back to the war room to come up with a new strategy to take on a Chicago Blackhawks team with a similar goal.
Tale of the Tape
|48.1% (24th)||Scoring-chances-for %||45.8% (26th)|
|2.26 (29th)||Goals per game||2.12 (30th)|
|3.56 (28th)||Goals against per game||3.24 (24th)|
|13.4% (31st)||PP%||16.9% (23rd)|
|72.3% (29th)||PK%||81.4% (18th)|
|0-1-0||H2H Record (19-20)||1-0-0|
Tonight’s Original Six battle is actually a bottom-five scuffle, with both teams far removed from playoff spots. Only the Arizona Coyotes have fewer points than the Blackhawks in the Western Conference, and the Canadiens now stand alone in the East with their .278 points percentage.
One of these teams is going to get two points tonight, though neither organization will want them. Therefore, it’s probably safe to say this game won’t have the same feel as the Final rematch two days ago. Perhaps if we’re lucky it will be more like a game of Blackjack, with both sides looking to get high totals on the board and hoping their opponent ends up going over the top.
The Canadiens are getting a hand (and some knees, backs, and a variety of other body parts) in their quest to stay uncompetitive. Now Christian Dvorak has been added to the list of injured players, and that means four of the regular top-six forwards are out of commission, with a couple of the veteran bottom-six options gone as well. Remove the entire top defence pairing and backbone goaltender, and it seems senseless to cheer for anything but a failure of a season and the better draft standing that comes with it.
That’s not to say there aren’t still things to look forward to from an individual player perspective. Through these generally awful two months for the team’s defensive play, Alexander Romanov has been gradually rising to the top with his play in his own end. He’s been quite regularly playing over 20 minutes per night since mid-November, and those increased repititions are allowing him to settle in. It also means he gets more opportunities to be physical, and he’s had several opponents feeling the need to stand up for teammates who were made to look silly on the receiving end of a big open-ice hit.
He’s creeping up among the team’s time-on-ice leaders on the penalty kill, and has the lowest expected-goal an scoring-chances against numbers of the 11 Canadiens players to see at least 20 minutes in that situation. His 13 shot blocks per 60 minutes of short-handed time are about 50% more than his next closest teammate, and place him in the top 15 in the NHL. It’s an effort surely appreciated by Jake Allen, who has faced more shots than just a handful of goalies this year, many of them from in tight.
On Chicago’s side, it’s now about trying to get the most of their players before the trade deadline hits. It’s apparent from looking at the team’s CapFriendly page that the organization is waiting for those decade-long contracts for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to expire before committing any more money to the team — apart from the defence — and that means there are a number of players on expiring deals. Will one-time scoring sensation Dominik Kubalik attract interest from a contender hoping to revive his offence? Maybe Calvin de Haan gets picked up by a team trying to shore up its blue-line depth. And perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury lands with his fourth NHL franchise for one more run at a Stanley Cup.
The league’s pro scouts are poised to be the most interested in tonight’s game, whether they have their eyes on one of those Blackhawks players or perhaps Ben Chiarot or Mathieu Perreault. It would be best for everyone involved if they leave the arena with plenty of positive notes from both teams. With maybe a few more for the visitors.