Montreal Canadiens @ Los Angeles Kings
How to watch
Start time: **10:30 PM EST / 7:30 PM PST**
In Canada: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Kings region: Bally Sports West
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS Direct, TSN+
The Canadiens were looking for a better performance in the first game of the road trip, and despite going down 1-0 early (that’s just how Jake Allen operates), the Habs stuck with their aggressive game plan. Their effort was rewarded in the third period with a goal from Kaiden Guhle in his first game in two months, and a second goal soon afterward from Jesse Ylönen proved to be all they needed to get the win.
It was a good way for the players to begin their road trip, but they were taking on a toothless San Jose Sharks team that sits near the bottom of the league. The competition ramps up as they make their way south to Los Angeles.
The Kings have played more games than anyone else in the Western Conference, but they’re still second in the Pacific Division by points percentage, well on their way to being a playoff team and the only one from the state of California. They also just made some moves to ensure they’re competitive once the post-season begins.
Tale of the Tape
|44.0% (29th)||Scoring-chances-for %||52.2% (10th)|
|2.70 (27th)||Goals per game||3.31 (11th)|
|3.58 (26th)||Goals against per game||3.39 (22nd)|
|16.5% (30th)||PP%||25.6% (2nd)|
|74.0% (28th)||PK%||75.7% (24th)|
Los Angeles needed some help defensively; they’ve allowed the most goals (211) of any of the 16 teams occupying playoff spots. It’s a significant change from their identity of a shutdown team during their Stanley Cup years that could just manage to score that one extra goal to rack up wins. Now the goal-scoring isn’t the concern, as they’ve scored 211 of those, aided by the second-best power play in the league.
The aims of general manager Rob Blake were to acquire a goaltender and a veteran defenceman to help out a back end that features a couple of young blue-liners, and he found both in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Shipped out was one of the faces of those championships in the early 2010s, Jonathan Quick, who has had his issues since the 2017-18 season and is currently in the midst of the worst campaign of his career. He’s replaced by Joonas Korpisalo, who is having his best performance since his rookie season seven years ago.
It’s a change from a goaltender in Quick who has the third-worst goals saved above average per 60 minutes among netminders to play at least 1000 minutes (-0.75), to Korpisalo who ranks sixth (0.42); about as significant an upgrade as you can get at a position. (Fun fact: the worst goalie by this statistic is Columbus’s other option, Elvis Merzlikins).
Rumoured to be close to completing a trade for Jakob Chychrun a few weeks ago, the Kings gave up on that negotiation and added Vladislav Gavrikovl, a 27-year old defenceman who was playing 22 minutes per night on that uncompetitive Columbus team.
Montreal should give those new players a good test in their first appearance. The Habs are playing a free-flowing game with many young players facing little pressure, and now they’ve added two more to the mix with Guhle’s return and a reinvigorated Denis Gurianov who was all over the SAP Center ice on Tuesday night in a top-line role. Gurianov came close to scoring on a handful of occasions, and will be eager to get his first with his new team.
Gurianov is on the team because the Dallas Stars wanted Evgenii Dadonov for their playoff run. This will be the last night of action in the NHL before the trade deadline tomorrow, and potentially the last game for another member or two of the Canadiens’ roster.
The only real rentals they hold are Jonathan Drouin and the newly claimed Chris Tierney. Drouin is playing better than he has in several seasons and accumulating points because of it, but he’s probably not high on a contending team’s list of options given his inconsistent tenure in Montreal. Tierney was a free addition to help the team fill out its forward lines, and they’re still only at 12 forwards with him, so Kent Hughes may just let him stick out the final weeks of his contract.
Joel Edmundson remains the top option to be moved, but if he didn’t play on Tuesday, he’s probably not going to play tonight and risk an injury on the eve of the deadline, so we may have already witnessed his last game in a Canadiens jersey. The options for a move are reducing by the day as the Kings, the Edmonton Oilers who added Mattias Ekholm, and even the Ottawa Senators who have finally put an end to the Chychrun saga by adding the young defenceman, have made their moves. But there are a few teams still with hopes of adding a veteran — the Tampa Bay Lightning are a commonly mentioned suitor — and it seems likely that Edmundson will be on the move somewhere.
With so many skaters having found new homes and now the Korpisalo trade, there’s increased speculation about goaltenders switching teams in the past couple of days, and both Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault have had their names mentioned. They’ve both played well at various stages of this season, and have reasonable contract structures to facilitate a move, even with a two-year extension tacked onto Allen’s current deal. Hughes has no obligation to part with either one, but he will be listening to any offers he receives, and we will find out in the next couple of days if he received one he couldn’t refuse.