Montreal Canadiens vs. New Jersey Devils
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Devils region: MSGSN
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS Direct, TSN+
In a week of the NHL schedule that worked out to have Montreal host the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division, the Canadiens have taken the chance to test their own mettle. They don’t have anything to prove as a team — they’re going to finish low in the standings and participate in the draft lottery — but nearly every player is performing at his best level of the season.
Montreal has translated that effort into two shootout losses as they have perhaps caught teams off-guard with how effective every line, paring, and goaltending option has been. It’s fair to say that Montreal was the better team on Thursday versus a listless New York Rangers club, and getting a point versus a playoff-bound team was less than they deserved. Going to a shootout versus the New Jersey Devils tonight might be a disappointing result for Montreal considering what they achieved the last time these two clubs met. The Habs faced a Devils team on a six-game home winning streak back on February 21, and left with a 5-2 win.
That result, from a game in which New Jersey launched 40 shots on Samuel Montembeault, would have been a catalyst for general manager Tom Fitzgerald to make a major move at the trade deadline. Now, his team comes to Montreal armed with the firepower of Timo Meier to prevent a repeat of that contest.
Tale of the Tape
|43.9% (29th)||Scoring-chances-for %||56.0% (2nd)|
|2.69 (28th)||Goals per game||3.55 (4th)|
|3.55 (25th)||Goals against per game||2.70 (7th)|
|15.7% (31st)||PP%||21.9% (13th)|
|73.9% (29th)||PK%||81.7% (10th)|
Meier has now played three games with the Devils, getting more comfortable and seeing more ice time with the team. He hasn’t registered a point since his first game, scoring versus the Arizona Coyotes, but put six shots on target versus the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
He’s still on pace to hit 40 goals this season, and has tallied five versus Montreal in his career, a sample of eight games. You could say he’s due after being held goalless back in November while he was still with the San Jose Sharks, and now playing on a line with Jack Hughes should make that a reality more often than not.
Having to overcome a goal or two wasn’t much of an issue for Montreal coming out of the bye week in mid-February when they scored about four goals per game, but it’s now been seven matches since they achieved that total.
Part of the reason is the power play returning to its ice-cold form after an uncharacteristically hot stretch , converting just once in this seven-game timeframe. Losing Justin Barron doesn’t help matters, as he had begun to settle into a role as a quarterback before a shoulder injury took him out of the lineup. If you’re enjoying these tightly contested losses because they’re aiding the tank you probably don’t want to see the power play clicking anyway, but it would be nice to develop some effective strategies for the man advantage to take into next season.
It’s hard to complain about much else the team is doing. Most of the players you want to see taking advantage of these late-season opportunities are doing just that. Kaiden Guhle (who had a goal and an assist in the last game) and Mike Matheson (who easily could have scored a couple of his own) are locked in a friendly battle for the most effective blue-liner each game, and Jordan Harris and Johnny Kovacevic are no slouches either. Alex Belzile comes into the game on a three-game goal-scoring streak, proving how much depth the organization has even with half of its NHL players missing, and that’s before several prospects, led by Sean Farrell, join the pro ranks in the near future.
Things are looking up for Martin St-Louis’s team, even in the midst of a five-game losing streak. It appears that he and the other members of his staff have settled on a system that works well for the players, smartly building out from the defence that serves as the biggest strength of the organization, and now we’re left to wonder what it all looks like with a fully healthy roster next season.