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

Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Game 79: Montreal Canadiens @ New York Islanders

Start time: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Islanders region: MSGSN
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS, TSN+

Finally putting a long run of games versus the top teams in the NHL behind them, the Canadiens began the final portion of the season that sees them play a lot of the clubs they will likely be fighting with for a wild-card spot in 2024-25. First up were the reeling Philadelphia Flyers, and the Habs showed the benefits of adopting a new standard of play over the past couple of months. Everyone, including the three defence pairings, got involved in the offence, and their creativity was rewarded with nine goals.

There were plenty of encouraging signs in the game, most notably Juraj Slafkovský netting his first career hat trick, but also Brendan Gallagher looking much better physically as the season goes on, Jayden Struble getting into the offensive attack at every opportunity, and Jordan Harris notching a career-high three points. A two-goal performance for Christian Dvorak was also a welcome development as he attempts to show that, when he’s healthy, he can be an impact player for an NHL team next season, whether that’s in Montreal or elsewhere.

Next up on the list are the New York Islanders, who are heading in the opposite direction as the Flyers, currently the hottest team in the league with five consecutive wins. Some of those have been versus poor teams, like the spiralling Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Columbus Blue Jackets. But they most recently beat the New York Rangers, a team the Canadiens had no answer for on Sunday, so that’s the level of performance the Habs will need to expect this evening.

Canadiens Statistics Islanders
30-36-12 Record 36-27-15
44.9% (29th) Scoring-chances-for % 47.6% (25th)
2.79 (27th) Goals per game 2.96 (23rd)
3.40 (26th) Goals against per game 3.19 (20th)
17.5% (27th) PP% 20.2% (20th)
76.6% (25th) PK% 71.6% (32nd)
2-0-0 Head-to-Head Record 0-2-0

The Islanders have ridden the hot streak the third spot in the Metropolitan Division as the Flyers and Washington Capitals tumble down the order. They need six more points to cover off the teams chasing them, and they will want to get the first two out of the way before they face the Rangers again.

That would require them to beat the Canadiens for the first time this season. The previous two matches were close, but Montreal won both in regulation. The Habs’ explosion on Tuesday made the Flyers the team the Habs have scored the most on, but the Islanders are tied for second in that category, giving up an average of 4.5 goals to tonight’s visitor. The last game they played was just the third of Patrick Roy’s tenure, however, and his work has helped clean things up in the Islanders’ end, reducing their shots against by more than five per game and their goals against average from 3.36 to 2.97. That shouldn’t be surprising from the coach who led the top defensive team in the CHL, the Quebec Remparts, for several years before his hiring.

However, since Roy took over 33 games ago, the special teams have gotten worse. A good power play (22.9%) has become a poor one (16.8%), and a bad penalty kill (73.0%) has turned downright dreadful (69.2%), currently the worst in the league. The season series has already seen six special-teams goals, and there could be more added tonight.

That should be good news for Nick Suzuki’s milestone quests. Despite the Habs scoring nine goals and his linemate getting a hat trick, he only recorded one point versus the Flyers, and now his goal of hitting 82 points is more of a long shot. But he’s still just two goals from 35 and five points from an even 80 with four games to play, and a couple of passes through a porous penalty-kill defence or receptions of Slafkovský’s cross-crease pucks could add a tick or two in those columns.

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