Game 16: Montreal Canadiens vs. Calgary Flames
How to watch
In August of 2022, after the Calgary Flames had lost Johnny Gaudreau in free agency and Matthew Tkachuk had been flipped to the Florida Panthers in a blockbuster trade for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, then general manager Brad Treliving made the decision to sign Nazem Kadri for more cap space than he had available, leading to the trade of Sean Monahan, along with a future first-round pick, to the Montreal’s Canadiens for no return; a cap dump of a player who had been often injured.
At the very least, it was hoped that Monahan could put together a good start to last season and be flipped for another pick at the deadline, but his injury issues followed him to his new team. Recovering from hip surgery in the off-season, he sustained a foot injury with Montreal, and his attempt to play through that ailment led to a season-ending knee injury. It was another case of a player going out long-term after playing through something, which ultimately led to the firing of Montreal’s training staff.
One of the last games he played in 2022-23 was a return to Calgary, when he responded to a loud ovation from Flames fans for his nine years with the club with a two-assist performance in 20 minutes of action. Two games later, he played just 10 minutes in Vancouver before being forced to leave, and didn’t play another game that year.
He clearly liked the direction the Canadiens were heading, however, signing a one-year extension to rejoin the team. Now healthy, Monahan is putting together a very strong campaign, tied with Nick Suzuki for second on the team in scoring and leading an effective veteran line, one that played a critical role in stopping a four-year losing streak to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
Expending so much effort in that game, those vets had a difficult outing on Sunday versus the Canucks, but they’ve now had a day of rest, and you can bet that Monahan will be motivated once again to prove that the Flames organization made a mistake by dumping him off while he still has so much to offer.
|48.3% (20th)||Scoring-chances-for %||49.5% (17th)|
|2.87 (23rd)||Goals per game||2.64 (27th)|
|3.40 (21st)||Goals against per game||3.57 (27th)|
|23.0% (10th)||PP%||14.9% (26th)|
|76.2% (21st)||PK%||87.0% (5th)|
|2-0-0||Head-to-Head Record (22-23)||0-1-1|
Monahan will be trying to help the Canadiens with a different streak. They’ve won the last five meetings with the Flames dating back to the 2020-21 season when they played multi-game series with the Canadian clubs. This year Calgary hasn’t been able to put up much resistance to its opponents, ranking as one of the worst clubs in the league.
The Flames are out to a 4-8-2 record, just one point up on provincial rival Edmonton for second-last place in the NHL. Andrew Mangiapane leads the team with four goals and four assists. By comparison, the Canadiens have four players with more goals, and four players with at least 12 points on the campaign, while ranking as a middle-of-the-pack offensive team. Huberdeau, who was expected to step into the team as an immediate fix to keep the team competitive, has a mere seven points and a team-worst -13 rating while getting one of the top offensive deployments on the team.
New general manager (and Canadiens 1990 draft selection) Craig Conroy has begun to audition the organization’s youth in the lineup. The recent additions, forwards Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil, already lead the team in points-per-game average and rank within the top five on the roster in even-strength goals. Those are promising performances for the Flames’ future while simultaneously being damning evidence of how poorly the club has performed.
The newest arrival from the Calgary Wranglers is 2023 AHL MVP Dustin Wolf, who got his first start of the season on Saturday versus the Ottawa Senators. His team didn’t make his second NHL appearance easy on him by allowing 38 shots on target, and he surrendered four goals in the outing.
Despite that resulting in a nearly .900 save percentage, head coach Ryan Huska may not want to send Wolf right back into the fray, but having the Canucks as Calgary’s next opponent will be an even worse spot. The quality of schedule will also play a role in what the Canadiens decide to do in net, as games later in the week versus the Vegas Golden Knights and Bruins make tonight’s match the best option for Cayden Primeau, who is coming off a win in his last start in Detroit.
Ultimately, the goalie duel shouldn’t be what decides tonight’s game no matter which netminders get the call. The Canadiens have gotten out to the better start, with better offensive and defensive numbers, and have more confident players up and down the lineup. The Habs should be favoured to put Sunday’s loss in the second half of a back-to-back behind them and run their winning streak versus the Flames to six games.