How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Bruins region: NESN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live
After being unable to hold on to a lead in the first meeting with the Ottawa Senators this season, the Canadiens proceeded to rattle off 5-2 wins in the final three games of the season series.
Playing a few of the league’s lowest-ranked teams in recent weeks has helped the offence find its stride. Artturi Lehkonen is producing more at the level expected of him, and that confidence has been manifesting itself in some rather impressive net drives. Jeff Petry is enjoying having Shea Weber back in the lineup, as he’s been free to play more in the offensive zone, and already has six goals on the season. The team is getting plenty of shots, and plenty of goals as they prepare for what is often a difficult end-of-year road trip.
Before they pack their bags, they’ll face a final test at home before the holidays, and it will be administered by a Boston Bruins team that is dealing with a few key injuries, yet still hanging on in the playoff race.
Tale of the Tape
|54.4% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||52.1% (8th)|
|3.21 (12th)||Goals per game||2.70 (27th)|
|3.24 (21st)||Goals against per game||2.67 (2nd)|
|12.3% (30th)||PP%||25.2% (6th)|
|76.6% (25th)||PK%||77.1% (24th)|
The injuries have begun to take their toll, and losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and the Buffalo Sabres last night leave them with only a tenuous grip on the final wils-card position. Despite those results, they’re just a single point behind Montreal, and could jump ahead with a win in tonight’s game.
Starting the year as one of the hottest scorers in the league, David Pastrnak has been forced to become more of a playmaker with Patrice Bergeron’s absence. Pastrnak had 17 goals and eight assists at the time of Bergeron’s injury on November 16. Since then he has just four goals, but 10 assists to keep the offence flowing, just through a different channel.
David Krejci is doing an admirable job filling Bergeron’s role between Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, but that doesn’t leave much talent for lower lines. The next-best forward, David Backes, has just six points in the 15 games Bergeron has missed.
The loss of the best two-way player in the NHL didn’t hinder the Bruins in the last meeting of the season. Montreal actually fared better with the four-time Selke Trophy-winner in the lineup on October 27, earning a 3-0 win in Boston. On November 24, the Canadiens fell 3-2 at home; one of just four times the Bruins have scored more than two goals in the past 15 contests.
Backes had two of the six points mentioned above in the game, including the match’s opening goal. Despite third-period tallies from Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar to pull the Canadiens back from a two-goal deficit, John Moore scored a power-play goal with under three minutes remaining to secure the road win.
The Canadiens will have the advantage of a full day of rest and a mostly healthy lineup for tonight’s game. The Bruins lost more ground to the upstart Sabres on Sunday evening, and have a quick turnaround for another Atlantic Division matchup.
Tuukka Rask took the loss last night, which means Jaroslav Halak will likely be taking the crease at the Bell Centre. The duties have been shared fairly even between the two netminders, with Halak holding a save percentage 11 percentage points higher.
It will be his first time playing the Canadiens this season after Rask got the first two games. Halak may be busy given the current state of his team and the common 40-shot performances the Canadiens have been posting over the last month, but we’ll have to wait and see how it actually plays out on the ice.