Montreal Canadiens Weekly Warriors: November 8th-14th

Montreal Canadiens Weekly Warriors: November 8th-14th
[email protected]: Five things you need to know
A battle between two struggling No. 1 goalies with Carey Price expected to start for the Canadiens and Mike Smith for the Flames.

he Canadiens' Max Domi extended his point streak to seven games when he scored against the Oilers, giving him 5-6-11 totals during that span. JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Flames, Senators home favourites on Thursday NHL odds

CALGARY — Here are five things to watch when the Canadiens (9-6-3) play the Calgary Flames (10-7-1) Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio):

The Flames will be hoping Montreal’s defensive woes continue as they return home from a three-game West Coast road trip pegged as -145 favourites. Calgary mustered just four total goals while dropping two of three in California, and has been streaky on home ice, surrendering four or more goals on four occasions while amassing a 4-2-1 record.

Price expected to start: Carey Price, who has been struggling with the mental part of his game, is expected to be back in goal for the Canadiens after sitting out the last two games while Antti Niemi played. Price has allowed at least four goals in each of his last four games (19 in total) and has a 1-3-1 record in his last five starts. Asked after practice Wednesday whether he learned anything while watching Niemi, who allowed six goals on 43 shots in Tuesday night’s 6-2 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton, Price said: “It’s always good to watch the game. Obviously, it’s not fun losing like that, especially watching. But even when things got bleak Antti didn’t give up and that’s a good mentality to have.”

The Canadiens’ recent struggles continued in the opening date of their current three-game swing through Western Canada. Montreal was dominated in a 6-2 loss in Edmonton as a +130 underdog on Tuesday, and has now fallen to defeat in four of six contests going into Thursday night’s game at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Domi on a roll: The Canadiens’ Max Domi extended his point streak to seven games when he scored against the Oilers, giving him 5-6-11 totals during that span. Domi has only been held off the scoresheet three times in 18 games this season and after Tuesday’s game ranked 10th in the NHL scoring race with 10-12-22 totals, trailing league leader Connor McDavid (10-16-26) of the Oilers by only four points. The last Canadiens player to finish a season in the top 10 in NHL scoring was Mats Naslund in 1985-86. Domi skipped practice Wednesday, taking a therapy day, but coach Claude Julien said there was no reason for concern.

Coach Claude Julien speaking with #Habs players during practice at Calgarys Saddledome #HabsIO

That has generated an 8-2-1 run for the OVER in totals betting when the Senators play. And things could get worse against the rejuvenated Red Wings, who arrive in town as -105 underdogs after claiming victory in seven of their past eight games.

Shaw provides a spark:Andrew Shaw scored the other goal for the Canadiens against the Oilers, giving him four in the last three games while playing on a line with Domi and Jonathan Drouin. Shaw (4-1-5) and Drouin (1-3-4) are both on three-game point streaks. The problem on that line has been winning faceoffs. Domi went 4-8 in the faceoff circle against the Oilers (33 per cent), while Shaw went 2-10 (17 per cent). For the season, Domi has won 42.8 per cent of his faceoffs and Shaw 37.7 per cent. Ironically, Drouin has won 47.2 per cent of his faceoffs after moving from centre to wing this season.

Calgary has also dropped two straight to the Canadiens, capped by a 3-2 loss at the Bell Centre on Oct. 23, and is 1-2-1 in four home meetings with Montreal since 2013, according to OddsShark NHL Database.

Sparking the Flames: The Flames’ No. 1 line with Sean Monahan at centre between Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm has combined for 24 goals and 56 points in the first 18 games. Monahan leads the Flames in scoring with 9-10-19 totals, while Gaudreau has 6-13-19 and Lindholm 9-9-18. Matthew Tkachuk, who plays left wing on the second line with Mikael Backlund at centre and Sam Bennett on the right, has 7-12-19 totals.

Another struggling goalie: Mike Smith, the Flames’ No. 1 goalie, has been struggling this season with a 5-6-1 record, a 3.51 goals-against average and an .877 save percentage. Smith will start against the Canadiens even though backup David Rittich has been outstanding with a 5-1-0 record, a 1.91 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.

CALGARY – Here are five things you need to know ahead of Thursday nights game against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Calgary will feature a revamped second line with Mikael Backlund centering Matthew Tkachuk and Bennett. That may help get the scoring going for the Flames, who have benefited from forward Johnny Gaudreau going for two goals and 11 points in nine career games against Montreal. The Flames are simply in superior form right now and they get to play this one at The Bank.

1. Head coach Claude Julien described Tuesday nights 6-2 loss in Edmonton as the “worst game of the season” so far, making Thursday nights contest in Calgary a big one. The Canadiens will have to find a way to correct the key mistakes that have afforded their opponents prime scoring opportunities of late, and subsequently made them pay. At practice on Wednesday, Julien stressed the importance of getting back to doing the little things right. “Weve slipped a lot in parts of our game which allows other teams to get more offense going and more scoring chances, and were giving up more goals,” mentioned the Habs bench boss. “Its little details that teams pay attention to that makes the difference, and weve slipped away from those.” Both Carey Price and Antti Niemi need the assistance of those charged with playing in front of them, which is something Julien emphasized as well. “We arent doing the right things that we did at the beginning of the year that kept the scoring chances down,” he explained. “Thats what we have to do to help our goalie, and our goalie will make the saves to help us. Thats why were called a team.”

The Flames managed only four goals during a three-game road trip against their Pacific Division rivals in California, but they will look to get back on track against an opponent that is struggling mightily to shut down the opposition. Calgary had won four straight before dropping two of three in Cali, with the lone win a 1-0 victory over the Kings.

2. Speaking of the Habs netminders, it appears that Price will be the Canadiens starter on Thursday night. While Julien didnt confirm that the six-time All-Star would get the nod, he did mention that there was a “good possibility” that it would be him. Price watched from the bench as Niemi started the Canadiens last two games against Vegas and Edmonton, respectively. In 12 career games against Calgary, Price owns a 6-5-1 record, along with a 2.64 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and one shutout. He bested the Flames earlier this season, turning aside 21 of 23 shots in a 3-2 win on October 23rd at the Bell Centre. Julien will likely confirm Prices status at Thursdays morning skate, which gets underway at 1:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. MT).

The Flames will look to put another dent Montreal’s porous defense when they open a four-game home-stand against the Canadiens on Thursday night. Montreal got blown out by Edmonton 6-2 in the opener of their three-game trek through Canada and have surrendered 21 goals while dropping three of their last four.

3. After scoring his team-leading 10th goal of the season against the Oilers, Max Domi enters Thursday nights game riding a seven-game points streak. During that span, the 23-year-old centerman has collected five goals and 11 points. He leads the Canadiens with 22 points on the year, seven points clear of Tomas Tatar. Domi didnt take part in Wednesdays on-ice session. He was given a therapy day. Meanwhile, Andrew Shaw extended his goal-scoring streak to three straight games with a tally versus Edmonton. Shaw has four goals during that run. 

“At points in the season, it hasn’t been there,” Smith assured. “It was nice to get in a game like that and keep it close as long as we could there, and have a good couple days of practice. It’s about going into tomorrow and just being myself and hopefully get a big win.”

4. For their part, the Flames havent played since Sunday when they wrapped up a three-game California road trip with a loss in San Jose. Sean Monahan (9g – 10a), Matthew Tkachuk (7g – 12a) and Johnny Gaudreau (6g – 13a) lead Bill Peters squad with 19 points each through 18 games. Mike Smith will get the start in goal for Calgary on Thursday night. Smith is 4-3-4 in 12 career games against the Canadiens, compiling a 2.39 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. 

5. Puck drop on Thursday night is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. MT). You can watch all of the action on TSN2, Sportsnet West and RDS, and listen to the game on TSN Radio 690 and 98,5 fm. Following the tilt, the Canadiens will fly to Vancouver where theyll close out their road trip with a matchup against the Canucks on Saturday night at Rogers Arena.