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Canadiens vs. Bruins: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Game 66: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins

Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Bruins region: NESN
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS, TSN+

After several games versus top opponents, there was a danger of the Canadiens not being prepared to play a similar game versus a lesser opponent in the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Martin St-Louis obviously got the message across that the team still needed a good start, because the Habs scored a goal 21 seconds in and added two more before the game was six minutes old. As we’ve seen all year long, the team doesn’t know what to do when getting out to a three-goal lead, but Cayden Primeau had the answer the rest of the way for his second career shutout.

Such a performance from the team won’t work versus Boston, and the Canadiens know it. They saw what can happen while not playing well during one of their worst stretches of the season through the month of January. Sandwiched between losses to the Ottawa Senators, they travelled to TD Garden and ended up losing 9-4. The game this evening at the Bell Centre is an opportunity for the Canadiens to show that the recent form they’ve displayed is a feature of the team going forward.

Canadiens Statistics Bruins
25-30-10 Record 39-14-15
44.7% (28th) Scoring-chances-for % 50.1% (18th)
2.75 (27th) Goals per game 3.28 (10th)
3.43 (26th) Goals against per game 2.70 (7th)
19.0% (22nd) PP% 23.7% (9th)
75.6% (27th) PK% 81.7% (8th)
1-2-0 Head-to-Head Record 2-0-1

Samuel Montembeault gave up eight of the nine goals allowed in the previous meeting, and his personal results have been slipping since. Part of the issue is probably the loss of Sean Monahan, but it wasn’t until February 10 and 15 that he was dealt consecutive regulation losses this season, and he’s currently on another of those runs with losses to Carolina and Toronto. He has just one win in his last seven starts.

Whether he can break out of that may depend on which Bruins team shows up for the game. Will it be the club that looks like a real threat to challenge for a Stanley Cup that puts four or five goals on the board, or the one that has scored one goal in three of its previous six games? The Bruins may rank as the third-best club in the league at the moment, but it’s also a team that has had difficulty beating opponents in regulation, and then struggling to keep up to some speedier teams in overtime. They lead the league with 15 loser points, and six of those have come since the start of February.

A normally reliable power play has failed Boston over the past six weeks. In the 18 games played since February 1, they are converting on 17.0% of their opportunities, one percentage point higher than the Monahan-less Habs. While that may not be such a difficult thing to overcome on its own, their penalty kill operating at just 77.6% and ranking 18th is more shocking for a team that allows well under three goals per game on the season.

It’s a bit of a Freaky Friday situation with Montreal in terms of short-handed play. At one point on the verge of falling to last place in the league in penalty-kill rate, Montreal has been the seventh-best team while down a man over the same time period in question. They haven’t allowed the opposition to score a man-advantage goal in the past five games, and that’s while facing three of the league’s top four power-play squads in Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Toronto.

The penalty kill has been so good the Canadiens decided to play it for 54 minutes versus the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, getting a lot of perimeter shots from Columbus but also some excellent scoring chances that Primeau had to use his athleticism to deny. The Bruins are big and experienced enough to punch holes in even the most stalwart defence, and they showed how quickly they can strike with the smallest error in the last game. Montreal would be best served to force Boston to play some defence of its own, and the Habs may be surprised to see that the opponent isn’t quite as formidable as it used to be.

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