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CWHL Weekend Preview: Canadiennes hit the road for series against the Boston Blades

Montreal is looking to snap out of their mini-slump against Boston

Shanna Martin / EOTP

Despite still being in control of second place in the standings, Les Canadiennes are struggling to win. Going to Boston to face the Blades, who have yet to win this season, may be just what the doctor ordered - for both teams.

The last time these two teams faced each other, there was a stomping on Saturday and a scare on Sunday. After an 11-0 shutout of the Blades, Les Canadiennes were caught behind 2-1 in the score in the second period of Sunday’s game. Montreal did come back to win the second game, but felt more heat than they would have liked.

That game shows that they can’t take these two games in Boston lightly, and you run into Blades goaltender Lauren Dahm at the top of her game.

Since that first game in Beauce, Les Canadiennes have not been themselves. Not only has the team failed to win consecutive games, but they’ve been dealt their first home loss in well over a year.

What’s more is that Marie-Philip Poulin hasn’t scored a goal since November 12 against the Blades. She still leads the CWHL with eight goals and has maintained a healthy pace of assists, but when you’re the best player in the world, people get used to seeing you score at will, and this tiny drought appears worse in the wake of losses piling up in the standings.

She is still creating goals, including a couple of outstanding plays against Brampton in the team’s overtime win. But with Poulin, you know it’s just a matter of time until she starts again. This is also somewhat of a homecoming for Poulin who played her NCAA hockey in Boston.

Looking back at the slide, there was of course the back-to-back losses to the Toronto Furies, followed by last weekend’s series split against the Brampton Thunder, who were arguably the better team in both contests. Montreal was actually never ahead in the Saturday game, winning in overtime but having chased the entire game.

On Sunday they fell behind, then took the lead early in the third, but Les Canadiennes succumbed to the Thunder’s hard-nosed style and coughed up the lead less than 12 minutes after getting their hands on it.

The good news is, anything can happen in this league, and a bounce back is just a weekend away. Charline Labonté played excellent hockey and held her team in as long as possible. Like a certain other Montreal-based netminder, Labonté seems to be able to keep her cool under pressure.

In the third period of Sunday’s game and through overtime, she held excellent position and moved efficiently, controlling rebounds with ease. The overtime winner was popped in after a mad scramble while Montreal had two players in the penalty box; not her fault. Jenna McParland’s tying goal was deflected, perhaps twice, on the way in.

Not to mention that all goals scored were on the power play. If Montreal stays out of the box, the games likely have a different result.

Boston, meanwhile, is still in its quest for a first win this season. They’ve shown flashes, taking the Furies to overtime earlier in the year, and scoring with more regularity of late. While the Blades still don’t put up huge offensive numbers, they spread their scoring around. Three rookies in particular are impressing. Dakota Woodworth shares the team lead in points with sophomore Kristina Brown, while Meghan Grieves and Kate Leary have each picked up two goals each.

The Blades should look to duplicate start they had against Montreal in their last matchup.

Montreal hopes this trip is also the remedy for their ills, and look to get back to their winning ways. Les Canadiennes still have a three point advantage over the Furies, who play the Brampton Thunder twice this weekend. Montreal needs just a single point to keep their place in the standings. A pair of wins would vault them into first place, but the Calgary Inferno will have two games in hand.

There is much to gain from winning this weekend, and losing would be the sign of serious trouble, while opening the door for Toronto and Brampton.

Saturday’s game will be at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, from the Walter Brown Arena and will be streamed live on YouTube (and you can see it below).

Sunday’s game will move to UMass Boston, for a 3:30 p.m. puck drop.