How to watch
Saturday’s game began with another slow start for the Montreal Canadiens when they visited the New York Islanders. Just past the six-minute mark, it was 2-0 for the Isles as once again Montreal simply wasn’t prepared for the pace of the game from the drop of the puck. In the end, the second goal proved to be the game-winner, meaning the Islanders had done enough scoring before the match went to its first commercial break.
Before the whistle sounded for the first intermission, Montreal was dealt a blow that may have a longer-term impact. Jake Evans had his outstretched leg fallen upon by Brock Nelson after a faceoff and had to be supported on his way to the dressing room. It seems very unlikely that he will be back today, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s out of the lineup for a significant period of time.
Last night, Evans’s loss was handled by some juggling among the 10 forwards who remained for the 11-7 alignment that Martin St-Louis had opted to go with for a second straight game. The coaching staff did a decent job of handling those minutes knowing there was another game today; Nick Suzuki played 22 minutes, Kirby Dach, who was shifted to a centre role for the final two periods, ended up around 20, Christian Dvorak clocked out at 18:06, and Jonathan Drouin played 16:38. We should expect to see that same list down the middle today when the Canadiens head to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers.
Tale of the Tape
|44.3% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||49.8% (21st)|
|2.56 (30th)||Goals per game||3.21 (14th)|
|3.74 (29th)||Goals against per game||2.67 (7th)|
|15.8% (30th)||PP%||22.5% (15th)|
|74.8% (23rd)||PK%||80.3% (13th)|
The Canadiens did find their legs after the shuffle and made those final 40 minutes competitive. Suzuki had a goal, his first since the game before the Canadiens embarked on their seven-game road trip around the holiday season, to get the team within a goal. However, the Islanders are accustomed to playing a defensive game, and they were content to just maintain good positioning to prevent dangerous rushes and see the game out.
With the team’s named all-star snapping a long drought, attention turns back to Cole Caufield as he makes his case to be a write-in addition, and also continues his quest for 50 goals. As we’ve seen previously, that challenge becomes more difficult without Dach for support.
It’s possible Caufield will have Jesse Ylönen on his opposite flank as that was the decision last night, and it nearly resulted in a goal when Ylönen just missed the puck on one of the rare odd-man rushes Montreal had in the game. The new call-up made some big plays on the defensive side while showing off more of his playmaking skills, and may challenge his season-high ice time of 16:17 set last year if he gets that opportunity.
Things don’t get much easier for the Canadiens as they head back to the mainland. They leave the fifth-best defensive team on Long Island only to find the seventh-best defence formed in front of them. The Habs discovered how tough the Rangers could be on January 5 when they fell by a 4-1 score, the last of their seven consecutive losses.
Since that game, the Rangers have been locked in some nail-biters, three games that have gone beyond regulation, two of those resulting in wins to help them maintain their lead on the Washington Capitals for the third seed in the Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers are beginning a back-to-back set of their own with a trip to Columbus tomorrow, so they should be spreading out ice time the same way St-Louis did last night. They have a tour through some of the top teams in the league coming up before the All-Star break, and perhaps the Canadiens will be the one to take advantage of a napping club looking beyond this game.