How to watch
The Montreal Canadiens’ lineup on Thursday night was notable for who wasn’t playing more than who was, especially on defence. Despite playing one of the worst teams in the league, a decision was made to scratch Jordan Harris, and this after Justin Barron wasn’t an option because he hadn’t even made the road trip. In net, the choice to play Jake Allen in what looked like a perfect time to start Samuel Montembeault was also an interesting one.
In the end, Allen was a major reason why the Habs pulled out a win in New Jersey. Despite the final 7-4 score, the Devils had the better chances in the game, deserving their four goals, which probably should have earned them a win. As has been the story of the Devils’ season, goaltending let them down in a game they led in shots 37-26.
The choices on defence panned out offensively as both Chris Wideman and Kale Clague had goals. Wideman had three points in the game to bring his season total up to 25, while Clague had his second goal of the year. Defensively it was more of a struggle for the team as a whole, but the report is that Jeff Petry will make his way back into the lineup tonight after missing seven games, and you have to expect that Harris will be back in as well.
The attention to detail on defence will have to be better tonight versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, but as we’ve seen all season long in this series, this is an opponent the Habs bring their best effort against.
Tale of the Tape
|44.9% (31st)||Scoring-chances-for %||55.9% (3rd)|
|2.61 (27th)||Goals per game||3.83 (2nd)|
|3.80 (31st)||Goals against per game||3.07 (17th)|
|13.7% (30th)||PP%||30.2% (1st)|
|74.2% (29th)||PK%||83.2% (7th)|
Montreal enters the fourth and final game versus Toronto with a 2-1 series edge, looking to add the Leafs to a short list of teams they’ve gotten the better of in 2021-22. At the moment they lead one of the most dangerous offensive teams in goals by a 10-6 margin through three games.
Auston Matthews may be the talk of the league with his incredible scoring pace throughout the season and especially in recent months, but only one of his 56 goals has come versus Montreal, scored in a losing effort on March 26. The Habs have managed this after holding him to just one goal in seven playoff games a year ago.
Montreal’s goal-scoring phenom, Cole Caufield, has outscored his compatriot in the head-to-head matches with two goals, and also has two assists. He enters this contest with goals in three straight games, having a chance to extend that to four games for the second time in less than a month. Since Martin St. Louis took over, Caufield has more games with a goal than without, and has also added 13 assists. He’s well on pace to end the season with 20 goals, which will be an incredible feat given how the first half of his season went.
The goals may not come as easily as they had been versus the Maple Leafs earlier this year, because Toronto is finally beginning to sort out its goaltending issues. A blown 5-1 lead may be vying with Matthews’s offensive proficiency for the top story in Leafs nation at the moment, but otherwise, their defensive record has been good. Following a long period when they couldn’t keep the opposition from scoring at least four goals, they’ve given up three or fewer in four of their last five matches, and eight of the last 12.
Jack Campbell has been responsible for most of those performances in recent weeks, returning to the form that he was showing in the opening months of the season. The Leafs will hope that quality of play from their starter is here to stay as they prepare for the post-season, desperate to win a playoff round with their current core. Montreal won’t be able to prevent that from happening this year, but they can still have a bit of impact on whether Toronto holds home-ice advantage in that round or not.