Despite the Montreal Canadiens being one of the most dominant teams in the league this season when looking at standings, the Detroit Red Wings always bring a fight. The Habs though have won 25 of a possible 28 points to start the year, but since it’s a hockey mecca there’s been a lot of criticism for the ways in which the Habs have gotten those points.
This past Thursday night, the Canadiens were able to quiet critics after getting a convincing win over the Los Angeles Kings. Tonight, they’ll host the Detroit Red Wings who are sitting eight points behind them in the Atlantic Division, but they shouldn’t take the Red Wings for granted no matter how badly they want to take another step forward in keeping a winning record.
Detroit has had some recent success being the winners of two-in-a-row, who before that had dropped five straight prior to their current streak. They found themselves jockeying for position within the division with other teams who traditionally they have dominated. The Wings have also had their dose of criticism for many of the same reasons the Habs have been criticised; for playing a poor possession game, a sloppy defense and relying too much on their star goaltenders.
The Red Wings have been floating near the bottom of the league when it comes to puck possession stats this year, but it hasn’t held them back too much since when they did have the puck they have capitalized. But how long can that last? Their game, beyond the play of Goalie Jimmy Howard, has been pretty average. When you don’t have much control of the puck like the Wings do, sooner or later something has got to give.
Detroit also suffered a loss on their offense when Thomas Vanek was placed on the long-term injured reserve list. Their Austrian star player was off to a hot start with 8 points in 7 games but that’s as far as it went. In his absence, Mike Green has had to step up from the blue-line and add those points, and he has not disappointed, leading the team with 10 points so far. Joining Green at the 10-point mark are Swedish teammates Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist.
Though Detroit has been lucky to get back Niklas Kronwall, who has provided the Wings with a little offensive boost. The Red Wings alternate captain had to miss the first 11 games of this year due to injury, and just got his first point of the year in Thursday night game. Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill had been watching his minutes carefully as to not over stress him, but there’s no doubt his presence on the ice will add some stability to the Red Wings’ blue-line and shore up holes.
Goalie Howard has been so amazing this year for Detroit with his league-leading .961 SV% after taking away control over the net from Petr Mrazek. Tonight, Howard will face off against the best goalie and probable MVP of the league as he’ll see Carey Price when he looks across the ice, who has been unshakable in net going back to last season before he was injured. Montreal with him are an average team, and they know it, just look at their losing season last year.
It should be an exciting game since these two teams allow more shots against than any other teams in the NHL right now, so it’s almost a sure bet that this game will be won or lost based on the strength of the goaltending each team gets. What makes this such a tough one to predict, is that right now, the goaltending could not be much better, and Montreal wants their home record to be perfect so bad that it could be time for them to trip up.
A victory tonight would give the Canadiens a 10-0 home record for the first time in their storied history. And their storied rivals would love to ruin that. An omen that makes us think the Red Wings might just do it is that the Habs also started 9-0 at home in 1953-54, the same year they lost to the Red Wings in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final.
So we’ll go with a road win for the Red Wings tonight.