Montreal Canadiens vs. Minnesota Wild
Start time: 7:00 p.m. EDT / 4:00 p.m. PDT
In the region of Canadians: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the wild region: Bally Sports North, Bally Sports Wisconsin
There were many bad moments for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2021-22 season, but some made more lasting impressions than others.
One of these was a game at Bell Center on December 9th when the Chicago Blackhawks were coming to town. Montreal didn’t score that night, which contributed to Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout total but most importantly resulted in the goaltender’s 500th win of the regular season. Habs fans didn’t have much to celebrate as the loss was the fifth in a row for the home team, so they decided to make the best of the situation and give Fleury a loud applause.
Another came in the final game of a long road trip in January when the Habs visited the Minnesota Wild. A fresh COVID lockdown had forced some rescheduling and the Canadians played their tenth straight away game since the Christmas break. It was an uninspired 8-2 loss. Head coach Dominique Ducharme said after the game the team would “throw this one in the trash” but as four more defeats followed on home ice it was the coach who was brought to the curb.
Tonight those two storylines converge as Fleury is now a member of the Wild after a deadline trade last season and is now looking for win number 522.
history of the band
|44.1% (28th)||Goal Odds-for %||46.2% (23rd)|
|2.67 (27th)||goals per game||3.80 (6th)|
|3.00 (14.)||Goals conceded per game||5.40 (32nd)|
|5.6% (31st)||PP%||36.4% (2nd place)|
|83.3% (11th)||PC%||75.0% (22nd)|
|0-2-0||H2H record (21-22)||2-0-0|
Fleury’s rise in the wins rankings has faltered this season as he has managed just a single win in five attempts. and that’s against a Vancouver Canucks team that’s giving opponents points like they’re crates of raisins on Halloween. Only Toronto Maple Leafs’ Matt Murray has an above-average saver per 60 minutes, and Fleury’s -2.94 score is well below that of the next goaltender (Jeremy Swayman, -2.41) with at least two starts. Minnesota backup Filip Gustavsson fared no better, conceding eight goals in just 95 minutes of play.
Random Stat of the Day: Josh Anderson at Faceoff: 7/8 (87.5%)
At least Fleury can take comfort in the fact that he’s not the only one on his team who’s playing badly. The club are in the bottom 10 in the league in terms of percentage of goalscored and unlike some other teams in this stretch (Montreal included) they have no excuse to be in the middle of a rebuild. Minnesota finished the 2021-22 season with 113 points. Instead of taking another step towards their goal of a Stanley Cup, they currently sit 29th in the league standings.
They’re still scoring goals, and lots of them. Mats Zuccarello is scoring two points per game and Kirill Kaprizov is not far behind with eight points in five games. The team averages nearly four goals per competition and ranks at the top of the NHL with teams like…the Buffalo Sabers, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. Just a few minor tweaks on the defensive side should result in the wins they regularly amassed a season ago, especially with a near 40% power play.
Montreal hopes their defense will stay loose for at least another game as they would like to score a few goals of their own. They were held to just two by the Dallas Stars on Saturday while giving up more than three for the first time this year.
It looks like Brendan Gallagher will be available for them after spending much of the last game between the bench and the dressing room after injuring his knee. However, Juraj Slafkovský’s return seems less likely as his upper body injury is still an issue and he is undergoing tests. Expect the offense to be carried as before by the top line of Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Sean Monahan, along with rookie defensemen Arber Xhekaj and Kaiden Guhle.