Is tonight the night the Montreal Canadiens finally win consecutive games this season?
Despite the Habs 5-13-2 record this year, there was an air of positivity around the team at practice in Brossard on Monday and Tuesday.
Maybe it was the 6-3 victory over the Predators on Saturday night. Or scoring three goals or more for just the fourth time this season. Perhaps it was seeing Joel Edmundson back at practice.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 22, 2021
Whatever it was, the good vibes were flowing for the team ahead of their game tonight in America’s capital against the Washington Capitals.
“On the road it’s all about will and being willing to dig deeper and (showing) character,” said head coach Dominique Ducharme after the team’s optional skate in D.C. this morning. “Individually, a lot of our guys have not been playing some good hockey on the road. So it falls on every guy. And when you put that together, I think it’s going to have an impact collectively.”
Ducharme reserved some faint praise yesterday for a player who does seem to be playing some good hockey. That would be centreman Ryan Poehling. He scored twice against Nashville and has seen his ice-time steadily rise the last three games.
“It’s way better,” said the 2017 first-round pick about his confidence earlier today. “Even when I came up I just felt like “hey, just do what you can do and have fun with the experience”. I think that even without the goal(s) the coaches have stressed to me that I’ve been playing so well. I just got to keep doing the little things and the goals will come. So I’m just building off that and it’s been fun so far.”
Poehling will have to keep having fun but know that players will soon be breathing down his neck for a spot in the lineup. Cedric Paquette is set to return from his lower-body injury and could be in against the Caps tonight. Mike Hoffman is a week away (upper-body) while Mathieu Perreault is about two weeks from returning from an eye injury.
Now is not the time for Poehling or the Habs to rest on their laurels. It’s time to finally string some wins together.
And have some fun doing it.
Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens are expected to line-up against the Washington Capitals in D.C. tonight
Tyler Toffoli – Nick Suzuki – Cole Caufield
Jonathan Drouin – Christian Dvorak – Josh Anderson
Artturi Lehkonen – Jake Evans – Brendan Gallagher
Cedric Paquette – Ryan Poehling – Joel Armia
Ben Chiarot – Jeff Petry
Mattias Norlinder – David Savard
Alexander Romanov – Chris Wideman
INJURIES: Brett Kulak did not join the team on their three-game road trip. He is dealing with a lower-body injury.
The big headline of the day for the Washington Capitals is that their star centreman took another step towards returning.
Nicklas Backstrom took another step in his recovery from a hip injury by skating with his teammates this morning. Albeit in a no-contact jersey.
Head coach Peter Laviolette said that there remains no timetable for his return.
It’s remarkable how well the Caps have fared this season with the injuries they’ve been forced to cope with, particularly up front. T.J. Oshie was placed on injured reserve this morning with a lower-body injury. Conor Sheary skated this morning but will miss his second straight game. And former Hab Lars Eller will miss his fifth stright game as he remains in COVID-protocol.
The result? The second best record in the Metropolitan Division, only three regulation losses and a captain who is reversing the hands of time.
Ovation for Ovi
It might be too simplistic to say Alexander Ovechkin is carrying the Capitals. But Alexander Ovechkin is carrying the Washington Capitals. Only Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have more points than the Russian’s 30 on the season. He has 15 goals in 19 games as he continues to track down Wayne Gretzky’s previously unassailable all-time goals record.
And he’s 36 years old.
“I guess you just grow to expect it a little bit,” admitted Laviolette after practice today. “He’s been our top player since training camp. He’s come in in great shape. He’s tried to make an impact in every game. He is making an impact in every game as a result of the stats that he has. And he’s helping us win hockey games. I think that’s his priority and his focus. Him being the player that he is is going to help us win and keep him pushing towards goals that he might be thinking about as well.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov as your centreman is a pretty solid option to have for Ovechkin with Bakcstrom on the shelf. But the fact that the Capitals have the seventh best goals-for-per-game in the league at 3.37 without their top centre is a a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
When this team gets healthy, watch out. The Montreal Canadiens better be attentive tonight. They’re giving up 3.50 goals-per-game. That’s the fourth most in the entire league.
Here’s how the Washington Capitals are expected to line-up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight per Puckpedia
Alexander Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Aliaksei Protas
Daniel Sprong – Connor McMichael – Tom Wilson
Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway
Beck Malenstyn – Michael Sgarbossa – Brett Leason
Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov – Nick Jensen
Trevor Van Riemsdyk – Justin Schultz
The Montreal Canadiens have to win consecutive games at some point this season. It happens tonight, backstopped by a returning Jake Allen. Take the Habs to win in regulation (3.80) at play.spreads.ca.
- The Capitals are 6-1-1 over their last eight games
- Alex Ovechkin is three power play goals away from passing Dave Andreychuk for the most power play goals in NHL history
- Ben Chiarot is three points away from 300 for his career