How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Jets region: TSN3
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Despite losing a close game the night before, the Canadiens simply weren’t ready to match the intensity of the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. They lost nearly every battle, failed to make quality plays when they did get possession of the puck, and generally seemed bewildered by what the Flames were doing. The Habs got down a goal early, and never recovered.
At the very least, they may have escaped the game only a bit worse for wear. Nick Suzuki passed his concussion protocol tests after a head-to-head collision with teammate Corey Perry, returning to the game and skating on the ice for yesterday’s practice. Phillip Danault, who missed several shifts in the last game and seemed to be ailing when he did return, is expected to be in the lineup tonight. He may not be at 100%, but he must be feeling well enough to have the coach’s faith in his effectiveness. His presence will help maintain the balance that the Canadiens need if they’re going to go toe-to-toe with the strong top six of the Winnipeg Jets in the final two games of this six-game road trip.
Tale of the Tape
|54.8% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||47.9% (25th)|
|3.21 (10th)||Goals per game||3.32 (8th)|
|2.61 (9th)||Goals against per game||2.89 (15th)|
|22.1% (13th)||PP%||26.5% (7th)|
|76.2% (21st)||PK%||76.8% (19th)|
Danault enjoyed a lot of success the last time he played the Jets; the last game at the Bell Centre before Montreal headed to Vancouver to begin this current trip. He pulled off two great cross-crease passes to set up two goals for Brendan Gallagher in a 7-1 victory.
Two games later he finally notched his first goal of the year, a return to normalcy for the team as his goal made it six times in seven meetings that the Habs put at least five shots past a Vancouver Canucks goaltender. Thatcher Demko was even named a star of that game, making many exceptional saves among the 40 he managed on the night, but the Canadiens played a nearly perfect game in front of him. It was a second such contest in three games, and it appeared the team had finally begun to find some consistency.
The miniseries versus the Flames shows that there’s still work to do to get everyone on the same page of the new systems Dominique Ducharme is trying to introduce. Everything needs to be adjusted on the fly in this compact season, and tonight’s game will be another chance for the coaching staff to get its message across.
While Montreal’s journey brought just one win in four tries, the Jets went in the opposite direction after their departure from the Bell Centre on March 6. They landed in Toronto for a three-game series with the division-leading Maple Leafs, and took points from each game. They went into the Scotiabank Arena trailing their opponent by seven points, and headed home five days later with that margin down to four, with two games in hand to help make up even more ground.
Now that the Flames seem well on their way to turning their season around, Montreal needs to start putting quality performances together as well. A somewhat comfortable cushion to the fifth-place team is now down to just two points. There’s really no reason for the club to have to look behind this season with the quality of the roster it has, even if it is currently without one of its main defencemen. The Habs rank among the top defensive teams in the league and have more than enough firepower to come out on top in any given game.
What they should be doing is looking at the gap to the Jets, who are currently five points up in second place in the North Division — all five of which can be attributed to the performance in overtime/shootouts between the clubs. There’s a chance to get that gap down to just one over the next three days, and it all begins with a fast start to set the tone.