Game 15: Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks
How to watch
For the second time in a couple of weeks the Canadiens played a conference-leader, and for the second time they finished a complete 60-minute effort matching that opponent on the scoreboard. Last night, they one-upped their effort versus the Vegas Golden Knights on October 30, not just getting one point versus a stingy Boston Bruins team, but earning the second with a their fourth overtime goal of the season. It was the first time since November 5, 2019 that they posted a win over their bitter rival.
It was also the first time all season that the Bruins didn’t score at least three goals, held to two thanks to one being overturned for goaltender interference. Like the game in Las Vegas, it was an exceptional defensive effort from all 19 Canadiens players to not just survive versus a top team in the NHL, but control the play for much of the night.
The NHL schedule-maker felt that the Bruins would need a couple of days off after their first game versus Montreal, but he’s thrown the Canadiens right back into action for another game today, with the Vancouver Canucks in town.
|48.2% (21st)||Scoring-chances-for %||47.1% (25th)|
|2.93 (23rd)||Goals per game||4.36 (1st)|
|3.29 (18th)||Goals against per game||2.21 (4th)|
|22.0% (12th)||PP%||32.7% (4rd)|
|75.4% (22nd)||PK%||79.2% (15th)|
|1-0-1||Head-to-Head Record (22-23)||1-1-0|
Waving goodbye to the NHL’s top defence, the Habs open the door to what was the league’s second-best club in terms of goals against going into its game last night. Vancouver’s 2.00 goals-against average increased to 2.21 following a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, though that still ranks fourth. It’s a major shift from last season when they ranked 25th with 3.61 against.
They do rank 23rd in expected goals against, however, still giving up plenty of quality chances. The main reason for the year-to-year change is the return to form for Thatcher Demo, one of the favourites for the Vezina Trophy through the opening month of the season. In almost 600 minutes of action, he’s allowed just 19 goals, sporting a .935 save percentage. Looking at a metric that factors shot quality into the equation, goals saved above average, only four goaltenders rank above him: Las Vegas’s Adin Hill; both Boston Bruins goalies, Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, and; Samuel Montembeault (who, when not playing a top contender, has had to deal with some suspect defence in front of him).
Because both Demko and Montembeault played last night, we won’t be seeing them in action again. Instead it’s going to be short-time Canadiens player Casey DeSmith, who spent about a month in the organization before being traded for Tanner Pearson and a draft pick, who gets the nod. Pearson has become an important part of Montreal’s forward makeup on a line with Sean Monahan and Brendan Gallagher, and DeSmith has been good with his new club as well, with a .919 save percentage and a 3-0-1 record.
We can only hope that Pearson is as intent on sending a message to his former team as Tyler Toffoli was during the North Division season. Pearson was one of the top performers versus Boston last night, and though he is the ripe old age of 31 (third-oldest on the active roster), he can probably still muster up the energy to make that happen.
The main question is how he and the rest of his teammates will respond after a game of heightened emotion last night. The Habs should have learned a lesson from the three poor efforts that followed the Golden Knights game, but they still can’t be expected to have the same motivation; the Canucks are not the Boston Bruins.
If there’s one thing the Canadiens should be able to take from the win, it’s the defensive structure that they played with. There’s no reason for that to fluctuate from game to game when they’ve proven versus the top two teams in the league that they know how to play a shutdown style.
They’ll have to keep things locked down if they’re going to contain the Canucks’ offence. Their roster holds three of the league’s top-10 scorers — J.T. Miller (21 points), defenceman Quinn Hughes (22), and scoring-race leader Elias Pettersson (25) — and all three have double-digit point totals on the power play for a team that scores on about every third man-advantage chance. You could argue that a strong defensive effort is more important versus the Canucks than it was versus even the Bruins, and hopefully Martin St-Louis and Stéphane Robidas will be able to convey just that.