How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Jets region: TSN3
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
In a game versus the top team in the division played without one of your best forwards, allowing a goal on the first shift of the game was about the worst-case scenario for Montreal last night. Auston Matthews escaped the grasp of Shea Weber on his way behind the net, and as we have been seeing a bit too much recently, the other Habs defenders on the ice weren’t able to sort out the coverage when he came out the other side. Matthews was left to wrap the puck around, and his long reach allowed him to beat Jake Allen, who was surely expecting a short-side shot rather the far-post one that came.
The confused coverage set the tone for the night as the Habs had difficulty preventing the Leafs from getting right to the crease. Allen tried his best to turn aside all the point-blank shots he faced in the first and third periods, but couldn’t prevent the Leafs from posting three goals on the board.
Corey Perry did his best to keep his team in it, netting one goal early and another late, but it wasn’t enough to overcome what the defence gave up. The team is going to need more offence to stay competitive with the top teams, and they face another of those tonight when the Winnipeg Jets follow them into Montreal.
Tale of the Tape
|55.9% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||47.7% (4th)|
|3.19 (10th)||Goals per game||3.21 (9th)|
|2.67 (12th)||Goals against per game||2.69 (13th)|
|21.0% (16th)||PP%||25.9% (3rd)|
|76.5% (24th)||PK%||80.0% (14th)|
In replacing Brendan Gallagher, Jesperi Kotkaniemi had a pretty good night on the wing. The line with Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar may not have churned up the offensive zone to quite the degree it had in recent weeks, but it was still the best line — for either team — in terms of possession and shots. It looks like the transition will be a smooth one for as long as this experiment runs.
As good as Kotkaniemi was, Alexander Romanov may have been the best young player for Montreal. Other than being on the ice for the second goal when Victor Mete played the puck with his foot right into the slot, Romanov was playing well in all three zones. On a few occasions he was handling the puck below the goal line in the Leafs’ end looking to set things up, while taking care of his defensive duties at the other end. His play didn’t go unnoticed by the coaching staff, as he played 15 minutes at five-on-five; about a minute less than Brett Kulak.
The Canadiens went into the season knowing a significant portion of the load would be carried by the young players, and that is even more the case now. So far, they’ve been able to hold their own, but to beat the top teams in the division, even more will be required.
The Jets have a similar construction to that of the Maple Leafs, with several star forwards and defence that may not look all that impressive on paper but has been quite solid all season. But like the Canadiens, the Jets are missing one of them for a significant amount of time. Blake Wheeler is out with a concussion, and won’t play either game in Montreal. Even so, there are still Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Nikolaj Ehlers to try to contain.
Montreal has done quite well in the season series, getting points in five of the six games played to this point. The games have generally been close outside of one lopsided win for both teams, with three of them getting decided in overtime, and Montreal will be aiming to keep it that way.
We’ll learn later today whether Jake Allen is going back between the pipes on consecutive nights to duel Connor Hellebuyck, or whether Cayden Primeau, recently recalled from Laval, will step in for his first game of the season, and third of his career. It may not be the ideal solution, but unless the coaches are sure Carey Price can play on Saturday, making Allen play three games in four nights is asking for even more trouble. The choice seems clear enough, but we’ll hear what the head coach has to say about the start.