How to watch
It was another game of getting heavily outshot by the opposition, but the Montreal Canadiens did better than just keep the score close versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, they came away with a 4-2 win. Jake Allen made several great saves among his 49 total, and that allowed goals from David Savard, Cole Caufield, and a late one off a takeaway from Paul Byron to serve as enough scoring for the victory.
It capped a pretty good week for the Canadiens in which they battled three of the top four teams in their division, all of whom added players at the trade deadline, and came away with three points. They didn’t control the possession in any of those games, but that’s going to be the trend the rest of the way versus top teams with their depleted roster.
The Canadiens are in the midst of a very difficult stretch of their schedule, heading out on the road for games against Florida, Carolina, and Tampa Bay, but first they’ll take on the last-place team in the Metropolitan Division, the New Jersey Devils.
Tale of the Tape
|45.6% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||52.4% (10th)|
|2.54 (32nd)||Goals per game||3.05 (16th)|
|3.74 (32nd)||Goals against per game||3.58 (29th)|
|14.2% (30th)||PP%||17.9% (26th)|
|74.7% (28th)||PK%||80.6% (12th)|
Like the majority of the American cities the Canadiens have played in this season, it’s been a while since they’ve been to Newark. To offer some perspective, below is the lineup they dressed in the most recent game a couple of days after the Super Bowl in 2020. There are just six of the 19 players listed still in the organization, and only two — Nick Suzuki and Joel Armia — who are healthy enough to play in tonight’s game.
I think it’s safe to say that Suzuki has since had an upgrade on the wing since, with Caufield joining his line. Caufield added another goal to his record last night, a powerful shot off the crossbar that temporarily put the Habs ahead. That brings him to 14 on the season despite having just one in his first 30 games — that 30th match coming on February 8 versus New Jersey, the final game of Dominique Ducharme’s tenure.
The next player in Caufield’s sights on the rookie goal-scoring leaderboard is the Devils’ Dawson Mercer, who has scored 16 times in 65 games. The Newfoundland-born forward is enjoying his time on New Jersey’s top line with Jack Hughes, and sits fourth on the team with 37 points.
Hughes is one of two point-per-game players on the roster, joined by Jesper Bratt in that category. Offence hasn’t been the reason for the Devils’ poor season as they rank 16th with an average of just over three goals per game. Instead, their issues are on defence where they give up half a goal more than they create. It’s a mark not so far off Montreal’s goals-against average, and we all remember how hard that was to watch to start the season.
They only allow 31 shots per game, have a penalty kill ranking just outside the top 10 of the league, and rank third in the NHL in high-danger-scoring-chance share. Their failed season isn’t due to poor team play, but rather that their goaltenders are unable to make the saves to allow their offence to stand up.
Only the Seattle Kraken (whose story is nearly identical) have a worse five-on-five save percentage, both more than a full percentage point below the third-worst Maple Leafs. We see how many goals the Leafs need to score just to tread water in the standings, and the Devils don’t have that level of talent.
New Jersey has seen four goalies make at least 10 appearances. Jonathan Bernier (who is currently injured) is the only one who has stopped at least 90% of the shots he’s faced. It’s easy to see why the team traded for Andrew Hammond at the deadline after three good games for the Canadiens
Last night, Nico Daws allowed four goals on 22 shots, so tonight we can probably expect to see the other healthy goalie on the Devils’ roster, Jon Gillies, who has given up at least five goals in his last three starts. Gillies was the one in net when the Canadiens lost 7-1 in that first meeting of the season, but he and his teammates will find this Habs squad is a lot tougher than the one they played seven weeks ago.