How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens/Senators region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Maple Leafs region: TSN4
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
To end their 2020-21 regular season, the Canadiens’ final slate includes three games in six days versus the Toronto Maple Leafs before ending with a couple of games at home against the Edmonton Oilers. Both are potential first-round opponents given that the Canadiens can still finish either third or fourth in the division. No matter which team ends up being Montreal’s opponent, they’ll want to make a statement with their play in these remaining games.
Oh, and there was also a game against the Ottawa Senators mixed in among them that you may have overlooked when checking the calendar. It appears the Canadiens did the same thing, as they were completely disinterested in matching the competitive level of their opponent on Wednesday. The result was a 5-1 loss at Canadian Tire Centre, and the Habs didn’t deserve for it to go any differently.
With that debacle, and their three-game winning streak, behind them, the Canadiens prepare to play the Maple Leafs once more. An effort like the one they had last night probably results in a double-digit tally for the opponent on the scoreboard, but there’s little doubt Montreal will be much more engaged to face the top team in the division.
Tale of the Tape
|54.8% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||50.8% (11th)|
|2.85 (16th)||Goals per game||3.33 (6th)|
|2.87 (17th)||Goals against per game||2.62 (8th)|
|20.4% (16th)||PP%||21.1% (13th)|
|78.4% (22nd)||PK%||76.7% (27th)|
Montreal had every player on the same page on Monday night when the Maple Leafs visited the Bell Centre. The game plan wasn’t perfect, and the Leafs had a few too many chances in the first couple of periods, but it was good enough to keep the Leafs in range, and Habs were able to turn things up in the final 20 minutes to get it tied, and eventually to overtime for Cole Caufield to finish it off.
There’s still a lot of work to do as the Canadiens prepare for a potential meeting with the Maple Leafs in the post-season. The Leafs had the more dangerous chances of the game, and that can’t be the regular pattern if the Habs hope to upset the top seed. Protecting the slot is still an issue for the team as the players lose assignments in the man-to-man system. The biggest thing to clean up from Monday’s game is the handful of odd-man rushes and even clear breakaways the Habs forced Jake Allen to face, needing their interim starter to come up with big saves throughout the game.
It showed what happens when the defence plays a bit too aggressively; last night showed what happens when everyone’s a bit too passive and spending too much time in their zone. Finding the balance between the two is the number-one priority over these final four games versus skill-laden clubs.
There was very little to be happy about in last night’s loss, but Nick Suzuki extending his point streak to seven games, matching his season-opening run, was one good development. In a game the Canadiens were severely outplayed, the Habs had 80% of the scoring chances with him on the ice. He only had about 13 minutes despite there being little special-teams play for either side, but that should change if he maintains this form. Montreal needs their young players to play at a high level if they want to have any success in the post-season, and Suzuki is showing signs of getting back to his level from the end of last year.
While the underlying stats disagree, it was also a good night for Jake Evans, who seemed to be playing in the offensive zone on every one of his shifts throughout the game to make things happen. If one of the sidelined forwards is ready to come off the injured list and the Habs still haven’t secured the two points needed to clinch their spot, there’s an argument to be made that Evans staying on the roster for the remaining games will be more important than Caufield doing so (either would be right back in the mix when the playoffs begin). If the spot is sealed, the decision may be to let Caufield get more reps at the top level to prepare for a potential post-season appearance.