Game 13: Montreal Canadiens @ Detroit Red Wings
How to watch
As October 28 turned to October 29, the Montreal Canadiens were riding high as they prepared to embark on their first extended road trip to the season. Against all expectations, the Tricolore were 5-2-1, playing reasonably well, and the fans were daring to let the word “playoffs” escape their lips.
As November 8 turns to November 9, the Canadiens haven’t won a game since, and the only words starting with “p” passing through the lips of the fans are much more distasteful.
It all started so positively with a hard-fought shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the next three defeats offered far fewer reasons for optimism.
- Three opponents on the back end of a back-to-back.
- Three backup goaltenders in the opposition goal.
- Three times where their opposition scored the first goal.
- Three times where they have trailed heading into the third period.
The coup de grace came Tuesday night, when the Canadiens spotted the Tampa Bay Lightning four goals within the first 14 minutes of the game in an eventual 5-3 loss that wasn’t nearly that competitive. Montreal must hope that they’ve reached the nadir of their struggles as they head to the Motor City.
|47.6% (21st)||Scoring-chances-for %||44.6% (27th)|
|2.92 (20th)||Goals per game||3.69 (7th)|
|3.50 (26th)||Goals against per game||3.23 (18th)|
|20.0% (14th)||PP%||25.0% (10th)|
|73.6% (23rd)||PK%||79.6% (13th)|
|1-2-1||Head-to-Head Record (22-23)||3-0-1|
Once owners of a 25-year post-season streak in North American sports, the Detroit Red Wings now bear a six-season playoff drought. This futility has allowed the organization to amass seven top-10 first-round draft selections — resulting in some overwhelming successes (Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond), some players with potential or in “wait and see” situations (Michael Rasmussen, Simon Edvinsson), and the occasional swing-and-miss (Filip Zadina).
Pairing these prospects with younger veterans like Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Larkin, the Wings have built a workable core. However, the team is not yet a refined product, filling the remaining roster spots with serviceable players cast away by other teams like Olli Maatta, Shayne Gostisbehere, Christian Fischer, Justin Holl, and former Canadiens Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry.
It remains to be seen whether Detroit is a few years ahead of the Canadiens or their direct peer. Much like the Habs, the Red Wings shot out of the gate, sprinting to five wins in their first six games. Like the Habs, the Winged Wheel has come back to Earth since, with only two victories in their next seven.
In contrast to Montreal, where goaltending played a disproportionate impact on team success, Detroit thus far has lived and died on its goal scoring — during their 5-1 start, the team averaged five goals per game. In the seven games afterward, that number has shriveled to a more normal 2.57. This offence has been powered by Larkin (17 points) and DeBrincat (14), but also a potent top power-play unit. Featuring David Perron, Larkin, DeBrincat, Gostisbehere, and either Seider or Raymond, the Red Wings’ first wave has accounted for 11 of the team’s 14 power-play goals thus far.
Detroit needs to score because their defence and goaltending have been average at best. Aside from a 4-0 shutout of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Red Wings have allowed at least two goals in every game this season. They rank near the bottom of the league in terms of overall expected goals allowed (46.37 xGA, 3.54 xGA/60), slightly ahead of the Canadiens (47.17 xGA, 3.82 xGA/60). Starting goaltender Ville Husso sports an .890 save percentage, and may be hearing footsteps from backup James Reimer and his .944.
Fortunately for the Canadiens, the Red Wings will not be playing the second half of a back-to-back on Thursday night. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they may yet see the backup goaltender, given that Husso has started Detroit’s last two games and has yet to play three in a row.
Something has to give. After three tepid affairs where the Canadiens were only in the game for a period or two at best, Montreal needs to put together some semblance of a complete effort against Detroit. If not, with the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks on the horizon, the team risks falling into a real double-digit losing death spiral.