The Canadiens visit the Air Canada Centre tonight fresh off of blowing a two-goal third period lead to Evgeni Malkin the Pittsburgh Penguins. Â It’s been a rocky season for the “big mess” (according to Jaroslav Spacek) that is the Montreal franchise. Â Sitting nine points back of a playoff spot, the Habs will be desperate to pick up points in an effort to get back in the race. Â They’re probably hoping that playing away from the raving pressure cooker that is the Bell Centre will allow Carey Price to focus on his game (0.925 SV% on the road vs. 0.899 SV% at home). Â Price will be opposed by Jonas Gustavsson, who has settled comfortably into both his role on the ice and with his teammates outside of the rink. Â The amused adoration that defines the Maple Leafs’ attitude towards the Monster has undoubtedly contributed to their recent success as a cohesive unit on the ice.
Montreal’s franchise tender, crucial to their playoff hopes, has been extremely boom or bust this season. Â In wins, Price sports a nasty 0.949 SV%, a stark contrast to his 0.889 SV% in losses. Â As such, Toronto should look to harness the energy of a Habs-Leafs tilt at the ACC and bring it to the Montreal goaltender quickly. Â The special teams matchup in this game will be an interesting one, as Toronto features one of the league’s (well-documented) worst penalty kills. Â Of course, they’ve been perfect lately, and will be defending against the NHL’s worst powerplay (Montreal clicks at anÂ abysmalÂ 12.4% with the man advantage). Â At the other end of the ice, Toronto’s fourth-best PP will need to be at its best to score against the league’s second best PK (89%).
Currently, Montreal’s lone consistent offensive presence is the line of Cole-Desharnais-Pacioretty. Â Erik Cole has been Montreal’s best player this season, and serves as a big body alongside that of Max Pacioretty. Â They battle hard behind the net and in the corner, with the work ethic of Desharnais acting as an effective complement to the two wingers. Â This line will undoubtedly face the Phaneuf-Schenn pairing all night long in what should be a physical matchup.
Meanwhile, the Leafs will hope to build on their win over Minnesota. Â Featuring three scoring lines, Toronto will look to use their speed and play a fast-paced, offensive game. Â At the head of this charge will be Phil Kessel and (All-Star assistant captain) Joffrey Lupul, who are tied for the league lead in points at home. Â As is often the case when these two teams meet, it should be an exciting one.