How to watch
The first three games of the seven away from the Bell Centre weren’t so bad; not perfect performances by any means, but watchable. The four games Montreal played after the holiday break, however, were dreadful matches from nearly everyone involved from the crease out.
In the four games played between December 28 and January 3, Montreal was outscored 26-8. They weren’t close to winning a single game, and it didn’t seem like they had any interest in doing so. The team now returns to Montreal, where they may find significantly fewer fans in the stands than in the last game played at the Bell Centre in mid-December.
This is the start of four consecutive at home, with a five-game homestand soon to follow. Many of those games are against tough competition, and tonight’s versus the New York Rangers is no exception.
Tale of the Tape
|44.0% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||49.3% (22nd)|
|2.61 (30th)||Goals per game||3.23 (14th)|
|3.76 (29th)||Goals against per game||2.72 (8th)|
|15.0% (32nd)||PP%||23.8% (11th)|
|73.9% (23rd)||PK%||78.1% (16th)|
|1-2-0||H2H Record (21-22)||2-1-0|
New York currently sits fourth in the Metropolitan Division, not very secure in a seeded position with the Washington Capitals holding the same point total from one more game played, but there is a sizable gap between the wild-card clubs in their division and those in Atlantic; the Rangers have eight more points than the Atlantic’s fourth-place Buffalo Sabres.
They come into this game-winners of two games in a row, but just three of their last six following a seven-game winning streak. Outside of a 4-0 loss to Washington, however, you can probably forgive them a 3-2 decision versus the Pittsburgh Penguins and a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in which they surrendered just two goals.
Scoring is up for the Rangers this year, and that’s despite Chris Kreider being below the 50-goal pace he achieved last season. He is still on track for the second-best season of his career, but in 2022-23 he’s being overshadowed by Mika Zibanejad who might be challenging his own career high of 41 goals at the end of the year. Of course, Artemiy Panarin leads the charge as he always has since joining the team, on his way to a sixth consecutive season scoring better than a point per game.
Even with those totals from the forwards, the real star of the show has been Adam Fox, whose name has been popping up on social media nearly every game for a milestone just slightly less remarkable than what Hall of Fame defenceman Brian Leetch was able to do with the Rangers.
It’s the Rangers’ equivalent of what we’ve been seeing from Cole Caufield in relation to Habs greats like Guy Lafleur, Stephane Richer, and most recently a comparison to Jean Béliveau. Caufield’s goal-scoring ability has been incredible to witness, and it’s happening while he’s the only player on the ice the opposing team needs to pay any meaningful attention to.
Given that was still the case even after Martin St-Louis demanded more from the team in the first practice of the new year, it can’t have gone over well with the coach. You expect to see some effect on your team’s performance when you call out poor play, yet he still had a handful of players gliding through the game in Nashville doing nothing of note.
Someone will have to step up to help the player who will likely be announced as Montreal’s All-Star representative this evening if the Habs want to break down New York’s defensive wall. Goals from Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher offered encouraging signs after those two players were the most vocal in their desire to get things righted on the team, and at this point all anyone asks is to have something to cheer about.