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Canadiens @ Flames: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

The Habs will be hard-pressed to outscore one of the NHL’s best overall teams.

NHL: APR 26 Canadiens at Flames Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Calgary Flames

How to watch

Start time: 9:00 PM EST / 6:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Flames region: Sportsnet West
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, RDS Direct, Sportsnet Now, TSN Direct

Tyler Toffoli was one of the top stories for the Montreal Canadiens a season ago. Somewhat of a surprise signing in the 2020 off-season, he was one of the main reasons why the Habs got off to such a quick start versus their North Division competition — an 8-2-2 record in the first dozen matches — and ended the regular season as the team’s top goal-scorer and point-producer.

He was particularly effective against the Vancouver Canucks, the team that opted not to sign him and allowed him to test the free-agent waters in the first place. In eight games he played versus the Canucks, he had eight goals, of his 28 total.

At the time of his trade to the Calgary Flames on February 14, he was two points behind leading man Nick Suzuki, despite playing 11 fewer games, standing as the team’s top point-per-game player. His offensive game hasn’t missed a beat with his new club, for which he already has five goals. Now, for the second year in a row, he’ll be looking to feast on the team that let him go.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Flames
Canadiens Statistics Flames
13-34-7 Record 32-14-6
46.1% (26th) Scoring-chances-for % 57.2% (1st)
2.31 (31st) Goals per game 3.46 (8th)
3.81 (32nd) Goals against per game 2.40 (2nd)
12.4% (31st) PP% 23.2% (10th)
73.1% (31st) PK% 84.9% (4th)
1-0 H2H Record 0-1

The Habs were playing well defensively for a couple of weeks at both five-on-five and the penalty kill, so there were fewer concerns about a team or player exploding for several goals as we had seen at the first of the year. Since a 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on February 13, they’d gone five games without allowing more than two goals. The penalty kill had surrendered only four goals in the eight games Martin St. Louis had coached, with a league-average efficiency of 83.3% in that stretch.

Then they rolled into Winnipeg for a game with the Jets on Tuesday night, allowing eight goals, four of them while shorthanded. The Habs controlled the majority of the play in the game, but some old issues that the new coach has tried to fix reared their head on multiple breakdowns. Defenders got caught out of position, Samuel Montembeault wasn’t nearly as composed as we’d seen from his last few starts, and the errors cost them a game.

On the bright side, St. Louis now has a good amount of video of solid play to compare that loss to, and can quickly address the defensive errors that were made. Some of the goals were the result of bad passes by Canadiens forwards, others were shots that Montembeault should have saved, but the majority were cases of the Habs just being unaware of the Jets attackers because they were focused on the puck, or failing to shut down shooting and passing lanes because of poor positioning.

A repeat performance would likely mean another loss to the Flames tonight because Toffoli is just one of the stars on the top team in the Pacific Division. His seven points in seven games with his new team only have him tied for fourth on the club in that time; Elias Lindholm (13), Matthew Tkachuk (11), and Johnny Gaudreau (9) all have more.

Calgary recently had a 10-game winning streak snapped by a bad game in Vancouver, but has responded with two wins by a combined score of 12-4. The Flames have made a habit of scoring at least five goals per night, doing so seven times in their past 10 games. And through it all, Jacob Markstrom has maintained the goaltending that will very likely make him a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, backstopping one of the stingiest teams in the league. It’s an excellent squad that the Habs will be facing tonight and a proper contender for the Stanley Cup this year.