It has been a bad week for the Montreal Canadiens. The team is mired in it’s first losing streak of the season, going 0-2-1 in the last six days after a strong 6-2-0 start to the year. Their sudden futility was highlighted by a 6-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs where Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty was allegedly bit during a scuffle to add injury to insult. So how can Montreal turn things around starting tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning?
First things first, they have to tighten up on defense. In their last three games, the Canadiens have given up 13 goals which has sabotaged any chances they’ve had to win. Carey Price has been solid in goal all season long (minus the six allowed against Toronto), posting a save percentage of .919 and allowing on average just 2.21 goals against while sitting tied for second in the NHL for wins. When Price is on, the Canadiens are hard to beat, posting a 4-2-0 record when he gives up two goals or fewer.
But more important for Montreal is the offense, which has gone missing in two of their last three games. On the year, the offense has been pretty average, ranking 11th in goals per game (2.82) and power play percentage (22.0), while sitting 14th in shots per game (29.2). If they can pick their offensive production up and score on a more consistent basis, the Canadiens can turn things around in a hurry. On the season, they’re 6-0-1 when scoring at least two goals.
They’ll have their opportunities tonight in Tampa against the Lightning. Tampa Bay is stuck in their own slide, losing four straight games coming into tonight’s contest. While the Lightning lead the league in goals per game (3.91), they’ve had trouble finding the back of the net recently, scoring two goals or fewer in each of their losses during this skid after scoring three or more in every other contest as they jumped out to a 6-1-0 mark. Their defense has also lapsed, giving up 14 goals over the last four games.
Montreal hopes to continue their recent success against Tampa Bay, winners of four of the last six meetings, and get themselves back into the win column. To do so, they have to find some offense. If they can score, Price and the defense should be able to make it stand up and get the Canadiens a much-needed victory.