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Canadiens vs. Canucks: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

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Already squandering their chance to sweep the final series, the Habs have to take the two points on Saturday.

NHL: FEB 01 Canucks at Canadiens Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet One, CityTV (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live, Sportsnet Now

After the Canadiens learned a lesson on Wednesday night, putting together an excellent final 20 minutes to overcome a two-goal deficit versus the Winnipeg Jets, you figured Friday’s game versus an outmatched Canucks team would be more of a walk in the park. Surely a power-play goal in the opening five minutes suggested that would be how yet another game in this one-sided season series would transpire.

And yet the Canadiens seemed overwhelmed by a bit of assertive play from the opponent, and that hasn’t been an uncommon occurrence this season. The puck-moving talent the team possesses makes poor decisions on breakouts, and those who don’t excel in that part of the game look utterly lost as they resort to chasing the puck around the zone. It’s discouraging to watch a team that should easily control games — and often does — look so out of sorts.

There’s one more chance for the Canadiens to work on that structure in-game versus the most outclassed opponent they’ve faced before they finish the year versus more disciplined defences and dangerous offences.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Canucks
Canadiens Statistic Canucks
13-8-9 Record 16-16-2
55.0% (2nd) Corsi-for pct. 47.0% (28th)
3.17 (11th) Goals per game 2.71 (22nd)
2.67 (10th) Goals against per game 3.12 (21st)
22.9% (14th) PP% 19.6% (17th)
77.1% (19th) PK% 80.2% (13th)
5-0-3 Head-to-head 3-5-0

Jeff Petry is the player thriving the most in the new system. He’s welcoming the opportunity to play with the puck more when joining the rush isn’t just a rare chance to get in on the offence, but a basic strategy. He was the best player by any possession metric once again last night, and set up the two power-play goals Montreal was able to get.

If he could manage it, having Petry play all 60 minutes would give the Habs the best chance to win every night, but the team needs to get everyone else on that same page. The issue is that neither Shea Weber nor Joel Edmundson look comfortable playing the type of game the system calls for, and lineup newcomer Xavier Ouellet got eaten alive in his 15 minutes of play.

Why, then, not get Victor Mete back in the lineup? He could at least perform as well in his own end as Ouellet has, and has also been noticeable for his offensive rushes in the few games he’s played this season. The new head coach can’t be faulted for trying out some new players, but sticking with them even when they don’t perform, leaving experienced NHLers on the sidelines for long periods, has to be the largest failing of his short tenure.

That will hold true for today as well, as Ducharme is set to run the same lineup that couldn’t secure a victory in the last two contests.

In the end, Mete will make his return by replacing Ouellet to Alexander Romanov’s right. There is plenty of mobility among that duo, as long as they can take care of their defensive-zone duties first. Artturi Lehkonen’s reinsertion was born mostly of necessity as we’ve learned that Tyler Toffoli has a lower-body injury that will keep him out for at least tonight, but doesn’t sound like a long-term loss. With that change, the lines return to a familiar structure we grew accustomed to at the beginning of the season.

The biggest difference for tonight’s game from the last is in net. Both teams will be swapping out their netminders for the second half of the back-to-back, so it’s a resurgent Carey Price versus a struggling Braden Holtby who has two outings above a .900 save percentage in his last nine starts.

The goalie battle alone should be heavily in Montreal’s favour, but it shouldn’t come down to their play if the Canadiens can show their true colours in their last game versus the Canucks this year.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin Nick Suzuki Josh Anderson
Artturi Lehkonen Jesperi Kotkaniemi Joel Armia
Paul Byron Jake Evans Corey Perry

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Brett Kulak Jeff Petry
Joel Edmundson Shea Weber
Victor Mete Alexander Romanov

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Carey Price Jake Allen

Injured: Ben Chiarot (broken hand), Tyler Toffoli (lower body)
Scratched: Xavier Ouellet

Vancouver Canucks projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Nils Hoglander Bo Horvat Brock Boeser
Jimmy Vesey J.T. Miller Jake Virtanen
Tyler Motte Brandon Sutter Jayce Hawryluk
Antoine Roussel Adam Gaudette Zack MacEwen

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Alexander Edler Nate Schmidt
Quinn Hughes Travis Hamonic
Jordie Benn Tyler Myers

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Braden Holtby Thatcher Demko