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

Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Game 60: Montreal Canadiens @ Florida Panthers

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Panthers region: Bally Sports Florida
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS, TSN

The Montreal Canadiens players were getting irritated after losing five games in a row in what they felt was a string of good overall performances, so it’s probably good that they got a win on Tuesday versus the Arizona Coyotes before starting a four-game road trip versus the Florida Panthers. The Habs have dropped both contests versus Florida so far this season after getting swept in the four-game series last year, losing by a combined score of 36-13 in those games.

Montreal isn’t the only team that has had issues with the Panthers this season, however. Florida has a chance to match what the New York Rangers did last night, winning for a 40th time in their 60th game, and that would jump them up to the top spot of at least the Eastern Conference, and possibly the entire league with a Vancouver Canucks loss.

Canadiens Statistics Panthers
23-28-8 Record 39-16-4
44.9% (29th) Scoring-chances-for % 56.3% (3rd)
2.76 (27th) Goals per game 3.27 (12th)
3.51 (27th) Goals against per game 2.39 (2nd)
19.4% (19th) PP% 26.0% (5th)
73.8% (30th) PK% 82.5% (6th)
0-2-0 Head-to-Head Record 2-0-0

Florida didn’t start the new season looking like the club that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last year. When the league paused for the Christmas break, the Panthers were just one point up on the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the spot they just held onto last year to qualify for the playoffs.

Their fortune turned around the time that the same began to happen for Matthew Tkachuk. At the December break, the star forward had 24 points in 33 games. In the 25 games he’s played since, he has 43, which includes 16 of his 21 goals. With that, Florida’s goals per game jumped from a 25th-ranked 2.91 to a top-10 mark of 3.32. That’s exactly one more goal per contest than they’ve been allowing since the holidays, thanks in large part to the great play of Sergei Bobrovsky, and that’s a recipe for success.

Montreal was one of the teams keeping Florida within striking distance to end the 2023 calendar year, but the flip to 2024 brought a combination of a drop in play from the goaltenders who had been stealing points and wins in the opening months and a decline in the defensive structure of the team. The latter issue continues to plague them, and despite Martin St-Louis devoting most of the recent practice time to addressing it, misplays and blown coverages in their own zone remain the greatest weakness of the club.

Even when the Habs were comfortable with their defensive play, the Panthers have typically found a way to pick it apart. Now catching the Canadiens at a time when there’s little confidence among the play of the blue-liners as they defend around their net, it could be an ugly night for the visiting team at Amerant Bank Arena.

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