How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet, CityTV, NHL Network (English), TVA Sports (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Things change quickly in sports. One moment you’re the heir apparent, the next you’re running for your life. Barely a week since sweeping the Vancouver Canucks back-to-back, the Habs now head to Toronto having dropped three out of four.
Now, the Montreal Canadiens were always going to lose consecutive games at some point this season. That much was a given. But the way that they’ve dropped their last two decisions is concerning. The Habs that took the ice in their Reverse Retro blues on Thursday night bore little resemblance to the high-flying confident bunch that set the North ablaze to start the season. Devoid of imagination and inventiveness, the Canadiens took the easy way out again and again, flinging pucks at the net at any given opportunity and hoping for miracles.
None were forthcoming.
Tale of the Tape
|54.3% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||50.5% (16th)|
|3.57 (4th)||Goals per game||3.75 (1st)|
|2.64 (12th)||Goals against per game||2.57 (7th)|
|20.8% (17th)||PP%||34.9% (4th)|
|79.7% (19th)||PK%||76.9% (21st)|
There are silver linings to every cloud, and indeed, there were positives to be found even in the chaos of the mid-week debacle. Joel Armia’s return to the lineup was relatively seamless, Jake Allen put up another solid performance, Josh Anderson continues to justify every cent of his contract, and the Canadiens kept the Oilers’ and Leafs’ big guns relatively quiet. Most importantly, the Habs showed that they haven’t entirely forgotten the game which brought them to eight wins. Now, they just have to find a way to bring it out more often.
The Leafs haven’t played since Wednesday night, so not much is expected to change with regard to their roster and deployment. That game did teach us two things though: first, the Leafs emphasis on puck possession allows them to thrive not only with the man advantage, but also in four-on-four situations. The Canadiens’ passivity in this regard played right into Toronto’s hands, letting them hold the puck on the perimeter at will until a visible weakness appeared in the defensive structure. Second, the Canadiens’ depth advantage is completely neutralized if they do not attempt to showcase their skill. The main difference between the Habs’ bottom six and those of other teams is how well they play at both ends of the ice. Relegating them to a safety-first game is essentially bringing them down to the other team’s level.
The season is still young, and the Habs are still second in the North Division. If they manage to learn the appropriate lessons from these recent trials, it could prove instrumental to their future success. If they don’t, it will be a long week in Montreal.