How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet East/West, CityTV (English), TVA Sports (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Slow starts have been an issue for the Canadiens for much of the season, but in the last two games they’ve taken that to another level. On both Wednesday and Thursday, the Habs were in a hole before the game reached the one-minute mark.
To their credit, they also found a way to respond quickly to the early deficits, resetting the score with plenty of game remaining. In the end, the poor starts didn’t cost the team; they found other ways over the remainder of the matches to let things slip away.
Versus the Maple Leafs, that was an inability to defend the slot, which is Toronto’s main point of attack. The man-to-man defensive structure had a hard time keeping track of the players circling around, and Jake Allen was under siege from close range. Thursday night it was more a case of some untimely errors from the defence. Montreal had the edge in most categories, but allowed the Jets too many open opportunities.
To prevent the losing streak from hitting three, the defence has to be much tighter in the rematch. The offence isn’t firing at a high rate at the moment, so they need to make sure the opponent is limited to the same.
Tale of the Tape
|55.9% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||47.7% (24th)|
|3.16 (11th)||Goals per game||3.23 (8th)|
|2.70 (13th)||Goals against per game||2.68 (12th)|
|20.6% (16th)||PP%||25.2% (5th)|
|77.1% (22nd)||PK%||80.4% (12th)|
That probably means the defence will have to be less aggressive in the Jets’ half of the ice. Many of the breakdowns came when an ill-timed pinch left a defenceman too deep with less chance of protecting against the counter-attack. Dominique Ducharme felt the need to pull Victor Mete’s ice time in the last game and go with just five blue-liners for the final 20 minutes to prevent the deficit from growing. Of course, the decision was also made to send Joel Edmundson out in the final minutes to try to tie the game up, which isn’t the plan many others would have drawn up. The players and fans expect the team to be put in the best position to succeed, and it’s hard to argue that was case with a point on the line.
Through the gloom, there are still some positives. Despite inconsistent performances for the team in general, we saw good things again from both Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Alexander Romanov in both contests. Kotkaniemi had assists on both goals Montreal managed last game as he has seamlessly taken over from Brendan Gallagher on the top line. Romanov ranked right with the top four defencemen as well in even-strength ice time, getting more of a role and showing his full toolbox in his 18:21. He probably should have been the other defenceman on the ice at six-on-five late in the game, as his movement could have opened a lane for one last dangerous chance.
The Jets will be happy they got contributions from unlikely sources to pull away on the scoreboard, especially with Blake Wheeler out of the lineup. Josh Morrissey jumped into a pocket of open space to get things started with his third goal of the year, and Trevor Lewis notched just his second when he beat Mete to the net to knock in the 2-1 goal. With those tallies already on the board, the Jets needed only one more to pull of the win, and they got that from Nikolaj Ehlers when he sped away from Jeff Petry.
The next decision for Ducharme is which goaltender to go with tonight. The fact that he opted for Jake Allen on back-to-back nights suggests he will grant him another start tonight after a day off, but he also has Cayden Primeau whom he can test out for a first time this season. It was another questionable choice to not go with the rookie in the second half a back-to-back, though you couldn’t have expected the young netminder to surrender fewer than the three goals Allen did. The concern is less about the most recent performance, and more about how worn out Allen will be by playing so often.