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Canadiens vs. Red Wings: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

The Habs end their homestand with a fourth consecutive division rivalry.

Detroit Red Wings v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Red Wings region: Bally Sports Detroit X
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS Direct, TSN+

If you were watching the Montreal Canadiens trudging through the games in early January and were looking ahead in the schedule to see when the losing might end, you probably felt a sense of dread when you saw a homestand toward the end of the month that featured several of the top teams in the NHL. It contained the top two Canadian teams, a Florida Panthers club that had obliterated the Habs on December 29, and the Boston Bruins who have lost only a handful of games all season long, outscoring opponents by about a two-to-one ratio.

Ultimately we did see Montreal once again have no answer for the Panthers, but they handily dispatched the Jets to open this five-game stint, and dealt with the Maple Leafs very well in a 3-2 overtime win. The best performance of all, even though it was a regulation loss, happened on Tuesday night when they played a tightly contested match with the powerhouse Bruins, giving up a goal late to spoil the effort.

Through it all (minus a portion of the blowout versus the Panthers), Samuel Montembeault was the most impressive player, providing a steadying presence in the crease for his young defence corps, and that would have been a surprising thing to hear a year ago about a player whose game was filled with inefficient movement. He’s worked with the goaltending coach to rein in his physical gifts into a more predictable package, and he’s looking like a realistic option to lead the team in the future.

Even though Jake Allen is recovered from his upper-body injury and back at practice, it seems that Montembeault is going to continue his starting streak, one that will extend to nine games if he is to start tonight’s homestand finale. With a 4-5 record in January, he can get himself to .500 in the first month of 2023 with a win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Red Wings
Canadiens Statistics Red Wings
20-25-3 Record 20-18-8
43.9% (29th) Scoring-chances-for % 44.4% (28th)
2.56 (30th) Goals per game 3.04 (22nd)
3.65 (28th) Goals against per game 3.30 (21st)
15.3% (32nd) PP% 20.3% (21st)
73.8% (27th) PK% 75.8% (21st)
1-1-0 H2H Record 1-0-1

Montembeault may be the star, but he also only had to face 28 shots versus the Bruins, and 26 in the first game at home versus Winnipeg. The team in front of him is playing better than the version that had been regularly allowing shot totals in the high 30s or 40s, and a lot of that comes from a full-team commitment to the defensive and transition games. They’re still losing the shots battle most nights — they simply don’t have the personnel to outplay the calibre of opponents they’ve been facing — but at least they’re giving themselves a realistic shot at a good result.

Justin Barron has enjoyed this time at home. His return to the Bell Centre began with a game versus his brother, and brought him a major dose of confidence with two assists, and a first-star nod as his parents witnessed his post-game victory lap from the stands. Since then, the Haligonian’s name has been enunciated two more times by Michel Lacroix following assists versus Florida and Boston.

The game plan all comes together with a fourth line that doesn’t give the opponent a moment to rest. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Alex Belzile have brought the hard-working style that the Laval Rocket are known for up to the NHL, and teams that are expecting to earn an easy win over Montreal have been caught off-guard by their tenacious brand of hockey. In these four home games (though Belzile has only played two of them), those two players along with Rocket alumnus Michael Pezzetta occupy the top three spots among forwards in scoring-chance share and expected-goals-for percentage.

Habs fans are feeling better about the direction of their decimated team in recent weeks, but Red Wings fans are seeing their team head in the opposite direction. Detroit’s season started out well enough; they were queued in the fourth spot of the Atlantic Division, waiting for one of the Metropolitan teams to slip and create an opening in the wild-card positions. Recently it’s been the Red Wings experiencing the slide, and the Panthers and charging Buffalo Sabres have overtaken them. Detroit has won just four times in the past 11 games, and losses to the Arizona Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets, two bottom-four teams in the league, are the toughest to swallow for a franchise that was hoping to finally snap its six-year playoff drought.

There’s a silver lining in the performance with the play of Lucas Raymond. Last year’s fourth-place finisher in the Calder Trophy voting is on pace for a higher goal total in his sophomore year, currently with 15 on the season, and seven of those since December 31.

For Moritz Seider, the Red Wings player who claimed the title as last season’s rookie of the year, the lining had been one of lead. The defenceman who had 50 points in his first season in the NHL is on pace for fewer than 40, and his -15 rating is only outdone on the roster by his most common defence partner Ben Chiarot’s -18. As in Raymond’s case, a flip of the calendar (and a new teammate on his flank) has brought more personal success — nine points in 11 games in Seider’s case, including one four-assist performance — but that hasn’t improved the fortunes of the team.

It’s another Original Six opponent for Montreal, and a divisional opponent with similar designs on rising up the standings with the help of young stars in short order. It’s not a rivalry that carries the same weight as the most recent two versus Toronto and Boston, and it may be up to Montembeault’s heroics and the determination of the fourth line to keep Montreal engaged in the last of five consecutive games at the Bell Centre.