How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet (English)
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
In the Blue Jackets region: Bally Sports Ohio
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, RDS Direct, Sportsnet Now
It’s another light night in the NHL, and the Montreal Canadiens are the only Canadian team in action, so that means they get the national broadcast treatment for a third consecutive game. After renewing hostilities with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, then continuing a tour of the teams they eliminated in the 2021 post-season by hosting the Winnipeg Jets, tonight fans across the country get treated to the much-anticipated match between the Habs and Columbus Blue Jackets.
This will be the third and final game between the teams this season, and Montreal has yet to beat the team from Ohio, falling 6-3 in one of Dominique Ducharme’s final games and then 2-1 in one of Martin St. Louis’s first. Both games came during the longest homestand of the season, which also happened to overlap the longest losing streak of the year, one that reached 10 games.
The second game may have been a loss, but it was notable because it featured Cole Caufield scoring a goal in a second consecutive game, and offered some hope for a big turnaround in his play. We all know how that story has developed since, with the rookie just having a four-game goal streak snapped on his quest to hit 20 on the season.
Tale of the Tape
|44.8% (31st)||Scoring-chances-for %||45.4% (27th)|
|2.59 (29th)||Goals per game||3.16 (13th)|
|3.79 (31st)||Goals against per game||3.71 (30th)|
|13.4% (31st)||PP%||17.2% (26th)|
|74.8% (27th)||PK%||78.7% (19th)|
Such milestones are the only thing left to chase in this campaign that is going to leave both clubs well outside of playoff positions. The Canadiens are 31st in the NHL, the Blue Jackets are 18 points away from the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.
For Columbus, that storyline was Patrik Laine’s when the teams last met. He was getting back in the rhythm of things following a long injury recovery, and was one of the hottest goal-scorers in the NHL at the time, netting three goals in the two games versus Montreal as well. The offence continued to come for about a month after those meetings, and a return to the 30-goal plateau, which he hadn’t seen since 2018-19, looked all but inevitable. But that all came to a halt around the trade deadline, as he hasn’t scored since.
The loss of his season-long centreman, Boone Jenner, to a back injury was clearly a major contributing factor. Jenner’s last game was March 11, and Laine has just three goals since that date. But it’s not all bad news for the former Jets winger, because he’s still finding ways to contribute, racking up assists to hover just below the point-per-game mark on the season. He’s also playing more than he had all year, just getting over 25 minutes of action on Saturday.
The goals are still coming for the team, but there are a lot more going in at their own end. They’ve only surrendered six goals fewer than the Habs, and we’ve been questioning whether the Canadiens understand the concept of defence for the majority of the season.
There can no longer be an excuse for that in Montreal, as all the veterans are in the lineup. For several games now we’ve just seen players chase the puck around their own end and give up goals and chances — except when they gave the league’s top-ranked power play a two-man advantage on Saturday and used disciplined positioning to limit the Maple Leafs’ setups.
Finding an answer to their woes probably lies in playing more like that, with less of the scrambly style that has been failing in recent weeks. It’s not the most exciting thing to focus on with only nine games to go, but jobs within the coaching staff will probably be decided by how much improvement is made in that area.