Montreal Canadiens @ Carolina Hurricanes
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Hurricanes region: Bally Sports South
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, RDS Direct, TSN Direct
Starting a series of games versus mostly top teams in the Eastern Conference on March 21, the Montreal Canadiens have played the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Florida Panthers twice. They will play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday to bring that portion of their schedule to a close, but first they have the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes on their radar.
In the four matches played so far, the Canadiens have scored 13 goals and given up 16. That’s not bad for the last-place team in the conference, and one that was averaging barely more than two goals per game halfway through the season.
They had that goal count evened up at the end of the second period in Tuesday’s game, fighting back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it with three goals in under two minutes, another fun moment in Martin St. Louis’s early tenure, even though three straight goals from the Panthers undid that good work.
Montreal hasn’t matched up well with Carolina, as the goals are heavily in the Hurricanes’ favour at 8-1 in the opening two games. The Habs aren’t alone in that respect as Carolina has one of the best goal differentials in the NHL at +64, but the visitors are hoping to end the season series with a much better showing.
Tale of the Tape
|45.1% (29th)||Scoring-chances-for %||54.2% (5th)|
|2.55 (32nd)||Goals per game||3.34 (8th)|
|3.76 (31st)||Goals against per game||2.37 (1st)|
|13.7% (30th)||PP%||24.2% (6th)|
|74.9% (28th)||PK%||88.3% (1st)|
The top performers for the ‘Canes through two games are Teuvo Teravainen (2G, 2A) and Sebastian Aho (2G, 3A), which isn’t all that surprising since they also lead the team in points this year. A significant portion of their offence comes on the power play, where they have 28 and 25 points, respectively, and half of the eight goals the team has tallied versus Montreal have come while the league’s sixth-ranked man advantage is on the ice.
Teravainen and Aho also pace the club in short-handed points with three apiece (they combined for one of those when Montreal was last at PNC Arena on December 30). Normally the two are just part of the story for a very dangerous short-handed team, but this year Carolina only ranks 20th with four such goals.
That’s about the only criticism there can be about the team in that situation since it’s the most proficient of all at killing penalties. Rod Brind’Amour and his coaching staff have slowly been perfecting that art, rising from 77.5% (24th) to 81.6% (8th) in his first year calling the shots in 2018-19, to 84.0% (4th), then 85.2% (3rd), and now, in 2021-22, sitting at 88.3%. If that holds for 15 more games, it will be the best mark posted over a full season since 2011-12, when the New Jersey Devils (89.6%) and Canadiens (88.6%) ended higher.
It’s probably safe to say that the Canadiens aren’t going to find much offence on their power play tonight. It will be another case of needing to do their work at five-on-five, once more walking into a battle in which they’re heavy underdogs and willing themselves to a better result than expected. That won’t necessarily be a win, but a statement that they’ll be more of a threat to these top teams very soon.
The organization is focused on the future, and that much is obvious with the ice times that S. Louis has been doling out recently. Nick Suzuki and the soon-to-be 25-year-old Rem Pitlick get plenty of minutes up front, Alexander Romanov now regularly leads the team in time on ice, and last game, Justin Barron, despite having a puck-handling error that directly led to a goal against, ended up playing over 20 minutes.
The question now is about Jordan Harris. Is this game the one he gets into after St. Louis said he would be in the lineup soon, or does the coach decide to wait until the team is back home versus a weaker opponent for that NHL debut? The new coaching philosophy doesn’t force players to dwell on mistakes with benchings. In Barron’s case, he wasn’t given any time at all to replay his mistake, staying on the ice for the next faceoff. Harris won’t suffer any loss in confidence by testing his limits versus a top NHL opponent, so it wouldn’t be surprising for St. Louis to choose tonight’s game as Harris’s first.