How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Oilers region: Sportsnet West
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens didn’t end their series with the Toronto Maple Leafs the way they would have liked. There was a chance on Saturday to come out of the three games in a six-day span with a winning record before what may be a first-round playoff series between the two clubs. It started off well enough, with an excellent first period and a quick 2-0 advantage in the second, but the Leafs took over from there. They won the game, the mini three-game series, and the 10-game slate between the two teams by a count of 7-2-1.
Montreal had little energy left to counter the effort of the Leafs. The compressed schedule is obviously taking a toll, with Saturday’s game being the 23rd in 40 days since returning from their COVID pause, as is having a handful of regulars out of the formation and forcing everyone else to play a level higher than usual all the while.
They need to dip into the reserve tanks for two more games before what they hope is at least a few days off before the post-season begins. Perhaps seeing an opponent they’ve played well against all season long, the Edmonton Oilers, is the motivation they need.
Tale of the Tape
|54.4% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||49.0% (16th)|
|2.81 (16th)||Goals per game||3.28 (7th)|
|2.91 (17th)||Goals against per game||2.72 (9th)|
|19.6% (18th)||PP%||27.5% (1st)|
|79.2% (18th)||PK%||81.9% (11th)|
Montreal’s 5-2-0 mark is better than their record versus every team other than the Vancouver Canucks, and it is also the only other season series they won this year. The Oilers haven’t had much trouble versus their North Division opponents this year, but Montreal proved a tough nut to crack. The team that averages 3.28 goals per game has managed just 2.00 when facing Montreal.
The Canadiens may be catching the Oilers at a good time. Connor McDavid went into overdrive in early April as he pushed toward 100 points before the season came to an end, and on Saturday night he hit that milestone in his 53rd contest, tallying four points. Since April 7, he has more games with three points than without, and that includes his last two versus Montreal. But with that mark out of the way he may not be quite so engaged, nor will his teammates be constantly looking to set him up, and that would mean less-skilled players could be handling the pucks.
Or maybe he has his heart set on a new career high since 100 was a bit too easy in the end, and comes into the game hungrier than ever.
His latest victim was the Canucks, a team that has been quite hapless in recent weeks with a 1-7 record in its last eight. They’ve burned their one mulligan they had in their schedule, and now, like the Calgary Flames, need to win all of their remaining games to stay in playoff contention.
Montreal can save both of those western teams the trouble with just a single point in these two games, rendering the four remaining matches between the Flames and Canucks meaningless. The ideal outcome is to get that result tonight, rest any players with nagging injuries for the final game on Wednesday, and then hope there’s a long enough break between Wednesday and the start of the first round to get some of their key players back for the post-season.