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Canadiens @ Blue Jackets: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

Credit: Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Game 22: Montreal Canadiens @ Columbus Blue Jackets

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English)
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
In the Blue Jackets region: Bally Sports Ohio
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS, Sportsnet+

The Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets met for the first of three times this season back on October 26, coming into that contest with identical 3-2-1 records. Both clubs were enjoying better-than-expected starts to their campaigns, but saw their carriages turn into pumpkins as autumn continued. Both teams now sport sub-.500 marks, and find themselves among the bottom three teams of the Eastern Conference.

The fall was particularly large for the Blue Jackets. Since that game a month ago, a 4-3 overtime loss, they’ve played 16 more games and won just four of them. No team had played as many games as Columbus (23) heading into last night’s slate of action, meaning they have the fewest games remaining on their schedule to make up ground, and would need to do so in a highly competitive Metropolitan Division.

Despite the monumental task, the Blue Jackets have picked themselves up off the mat in the last week. Three of the wins they’ve enjoyed since their trip to the Bell Centre have come in their previous four games. Like with the San Jose Sharks, the Canadiens are catching a team that looks poor on paper during a bit of a resurgence (the Sharks now have points in four of their last six matches), and there won’t be an easy win for the taking versus a Columbus team with the fourth-lowest points percentage in 2023-24.

Canadiens Statistics Blue Jackets
9-10-1 Record 7-12-4
45.4% (28th) Scoring-chances-for % 46.6% (23rd)
2.71 (28th) Goals per game 2.91 (22nd)
3.48 (25th) Goals against per game 3.39 (21st)
18.0% (23rd) PP% 11.1% (28th)
73.5% (27th) PK% 89.2% (2nd)
1-0-0 Head-to-Head Record 0-0-1

The defensive structure the Sharks were able to play with during their short-handed minutes was perhaps the most eyebrow-raising aspect of their play on Friday. The Blue Jackets’ penalty kill has been their few bright spots this year, ranking second in the league at nearly 90%. After six consecutive games with a power-play goal, the Canadiens have now gone six games without one, and this probably won’t be the night when that streak comes to an end.

Given the two teams’ struggles while up a man, it was a bit of a miracle that each club scored two power-play goals in the first meeting. For the Blue Jackets, that serves as 25% of their total production on the man advantage this season. The player who scored both of them for Columbus, Emil Bemstrom, has since cleared waivers and been assigned to the AHL (where he was the league’s most recent player of the week).

If the special teams continue to sputter for both clubs and it comes down to the even-strength play to decide it, the edge shifts largely in favour of Columbus. It turns out their power-play woes are the only thing holding their offence back. It takes them nine opportunities to score a power-play goal, but they lead the league with 51 tallies at five-on-five, still sitting sixth when you factor in their high number of games played by looking at goals per 60 minutes. Montreal ranks 27th in that category, scoring 0.60 fewer goals per 60.

Boone Jenner leads the way with nine such goals, but three of his teammates have at least five. Zach Werenski paces the club with 11 even-strength points, part of a group of defencemen who are heavily involved in the club’s offensive output, amassing 56 points on 67 total goals. As for Montreal, no team has more goals from its blue-liners (16).

Neither corps is remotely effective at preventing quality scoring chances this season, both ranking in the bottom four in terms of expected goals against, so last goal wins on a national stage at Nationwide Arena.

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