Montreal Canadiens vs. Carolina Hurricanes
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Hurricanes region: Bally Sports South
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS Direct, TSN+
When the Montreal Canadiens met the Carolina Hurricanes about three weeks ago, the club from Raleigh was in a three-team race for the Metropolitan Division title. Since that game on February 16, the New York Rangers have fallen off the pace with a 3-5-1 record, making it a fight between the Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils.
New Jersey made arguably the biggest move ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks in a deal that saw the exchange of 13 assets. The Devils needed an offensive finisher to complement the effective possession game they play, and they believe they’ve accomplished that with Meier’s addition.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, made a trade to bring in Jesse Puljujarvi and end a relationship that had soured between him and the Edmonton Oilers, but didn’t land any of the major names available. It left some analysts wondering if they had been too passive among the competitive Eastern Conference teams that made major additions — like Meier — ahead of the post-season.
Tale of the Tape
|43.8% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||60.6% (1st)|
|2.68 (27th)||Goals per game||3.43 (7th)|
|3.57 (27th)||Goals against per game||2.51 (2nd)|
|16.3% (31st)||PP%||22.0% (13th)|
|74.1% (28th)||PK%||83.3% (4th)|
Their answer to the criticism so far has been two wins by a combined score of 12-1. The first was to be expected versus the Arizona Coyotes, a game in which they outshot the Coyotes 40-12. Less expected was Carolina improving on that performance two nights later versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
One player emerging as a key piece of the puzzle is Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who is growing more comfortable with his game in his fifth year in the NHL, playing as the team’s second-line centre. He just had the best game of his career on Sunday versus the Lightning, with a goal and four assists to help set a new career mark of 30 points.
Montreal is returning home to face its 2018 first-round selection following a four-game road trip. They may have ended on three consecutive losses, but they performed well in each game, and a comeback effort in the third period on Sunday was impressive considering they were playing a top team in the Western Conference.
To keep the score close versus the Hurricanes, the Habs will have to maximize the puck-support game that has served them well since the All-Star break. The defencemen and forwards have been much more connected, and that’s why the Canadiens are averaging 3.25 goals per game over their past 12.
In the last two seasons, the Canadiens haven’t been able to score more than two goals against Carolina, nor surrender fewer than four. Montreal has found a style of play that works well for everyone involved, one that has them playing their most effective and entertaining hockey of the season. Perhaps tonight is their time to get a first win over the Hurricanes since February 29, 2020.