The St. Louis Blues, who are visiting the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, may not be the hottest team in the league, but they’ve been doing okay since head coach Mike Yeo took over. The same can’t be said for the Montreal Canadiens, who face an uphill battle to get back on track, even after beating the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
Yes, the Canadiens won and snapped a four-game losing streak, during which they were shut out in back-to-back games. However, they needed overtime to eke out a 5-4 win over the second-worst team in the league. Two nights earlier they had lost 4-0 to the worst in the Colorado Avalanche. So, progress?
Montreal Canadiens vs. St. Louis Blues
Bell Centre – 7:00 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – CITY, TVAS, NHLN-US, FS-MW
2016-17 Season Series: December 6: Blues 3 – Canadiens 2 (OT)
St. Louis Blues – 28-22-5 – 61 Points
Road Record: 11-13-1
Hot Players: Kevin Shattenkirk, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jake Allen
Key Injuries: Kyle Brodziak, Robby Fabbri
Alexander Steen – Paul Stastny – Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz– Patrik Berglund– Magnus Paajarvi
Kenny Agostino – Jori Lehtera – David Perron
Scottie Upshall– Ivan Barbashev – Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson – Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson – Colton Parayko
Montreal Canadiens – 31-17-8 – 70 Points
Home Record: 18-6-4
Hot Players: Max Pacioretty
Key Injuries: Brendan Gallagher
Max Pacioretty – Phillip Danault– Alexander Radulov
Artturi Lehkonen – Alex Galchenyuk – Paul Byron
Sven Andrighetto – Tomas Plekanec – Andrew Shaw
Daniel Carr – Michael McCarron – Torrey Mitchell
Alexei Emelin – Shea Weber
Andrei Markov – Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu – Greg Pateryn
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] Ever since Ken Hitchock was fired, the Blues are 4-1 and are riding a three-game winning streak.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] The Blues have received a lift from an unlikely source: their goaltending. Starter Jake Allen has allowed one goal in his last two games, while backup Carter Hutton has two shutouts in his last three games, dating back to Hitchcock’s tenure, which ended on February 1. Needless to say, the popular theory is that goaltending, or lack thereof, is what got him fired.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) February 1, 2017
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] If goaltending is the only thing that was holding the Blues back this year, and that’s one of the areas that is hot for them as they roll into Montreal, the Canadiens could be getting a break: Top-center Paul Stastny is day-to-day and might miss tonight’s game after suffering a leg injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. If that’s the case, look for Dmitrij Jaskin or Nail Yakupov to take his spot in the lineup.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Michael McCarron and Daniel Carr were inserted into Montreal’s lineup for Thursday’s win over Arizona to give life to the offense, which had been shut out in the previous two games. While they served bottom-six roles, they nevertheless delivered assists on Andrei Markov’s first-period goal.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap] While head coach Michel Therrien is renowned for tweaking his lines (to put it mildly) during game action, he tends to give a winning set a chance to stay together. That would mean two of his favorite workhorses, David Desharnais and Brian Flynn, not to mention recent-acquisition Nikita Nesterov, will sit for a second straight contest.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]6)[/miptheme_dropcap] Of note, Flynn skated on the top line during the morning skate, as Pacioretty was sick with the flu. No word yet on whether the Canadiens captain will be playing tonight or not, although there is some cause for optimism among Habs fans: If Pacioretty were out of the lineup, it would be unlikely Flynn would take his spott on the first line. As such, logic dictates he might just be filling in temporarily.
Max Pacioretty not at morning skate #tvasports
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) February 11, 2017
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]7)[/miptheme_dropcap] This is Montreal’s last home game before they enter their bye week, which officially starts after Sunday night’s road game against the Boston Bruins. It will be interesting to see if the team is able to build off the win over the Coyotes tonight and tomorrow, and, if so, how they respond against the Winnipeg Jets a week from now. How will the week off affect them if they head into it on a roll?
There’s no denying things haven’t gone Montreal’s way for a while now, essentially since their near-perfect 13-1-1 start to the season. Ever since, they are 18-16-7 and have the lowest points percentage of any of the four division leaders. While they are eight points up on the second-place Ottawa Senators, their closest competition has four games in hand. That’s one more reason to pay close attention to this upcoming bye week
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.