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The Montreal Canadiens have been busy preparing for their first home game since December 16. Tossing things in the garbage and throwing them out the window, it sounds like a deep cleaning has been undertaken following their last game.
It was necessary after the match on Monday night versus the Minnesota Wild in which the Canadiens gave up a season-high eight goals, but such a defensive effort wasn’t a rare occurence on the road trip. The past couple of weeks featured some good special-teams results and some excellent goaltending amid what was otherwise poor play.
As much as the players would like to return to a Bell Centre full of their own fans, they may be thankful that the building will be empty if they struggle as mightily in their own zone versus the Anaheim Ducks. After two games surrendering 50-plus shots followed by two others giving up more than 20 shots in the opening period, the Canadiens are quickly going from just a team that doesn’t win many games to a foil for opposing clubs.
Tale of the Tape
|46.9% (25th)||Scoring-chances-for %||50.1% (17th)|
|2.18 (32nd)||Goals per game||3.70 (3rd)|
|3.65 (31st)||Goals against per game||2.97(17th)|
|13.3% (31st)||PP%||17.7% (21st)|
|73.0% (29th)||PK%||79.7% (16th)|
|1-1-0 (19-20)||H2H Record||1-1-0 (19-20)|
The Pacific Division may be in the running for weakest in the NHL, with the lowest points percentage for its leader. Nevertheless, Anaheim is currently sitting in a playoff spot, and we can’t begrudge the fans their excitement about that success after the Hade made the playoffs as the fourth seed in the only seven-team division a year ago. The Ducks have been near the bottom of their group for three years, and now they seem to be well on their way to turning things around.
Young players are leading the charge this season. Troy Terry seemed destined for big things with an exceptional collegiate career and good offensive totals in the AHL, and is now putting that all together in the NHL with a team-high 23 goals. Trevor Zegras was one of the boons from that recent rough period for the franchise, selected ninth overall in 2020. He sits second in goals and points on the team while still qualifying as a rookie. The team’s 2019 selection, defenceman Jamie Drysdale, is also a key contributor already with 18 points through 45 games this year.
That influx of offensive talent (and there’s more on the way with World Juniors standout Mason McTavish in the system) is great news for the team’s future, but the 2.89 goals it’s currently resulting in wouldn’t be enough to earn them a post-season berth on their own. The other half of the equation is the Ducks’ strong defensive play, sitting in the top half of teams in goals allowed per game, and enjoying one of the best penalty kills in the league.
John Gibson has been one of steadiest goaltenders in the NHL for many years, and he has the teammates in front of him to make his performances count. With Drysdale becoming a player the coaching staff can trust in key offensive situations, a dynamic defensive group of Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, and Kevin Shattenkirk can play any situation the coaching staff needs.
Terry is also much more than a one-dimensional offensive player. Despite his 23 goals, he’s actually getting more faceoffs in the defensive zone at five-on-five than the offensive one, and still holding one of the best scoring-chance differentials on the team. That number has steadily increased over his brief career while his deployment has gotten tougher, making the 24-year-old a dependable winger and allowing the new additions to get the sheltered minutes he was granted in previous years to adjust to the NHL game.