Tonight’s Canadiens game features two of the NHL’s hottest net minders. Ryan Miller, the NHL’s defensive player of the week, has won his last five starts, boasting an impressive .933 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA in those five games. The Canadiens are riding a hot goaltender as well, one who finished runner up to Miller for defensive honors this past week, that being Cristobal Huet who recorder his first back-to-back shutouts of his NHL career stopping 70 shots from the Bruins and Flyers in consecutive afternoon games.
The season series is split after four games, with the Canadiens sweeping the Sabres in a home and home series in early November by replica 3-2 scores and the Sabres responding with two victories one by a 3-1 score and the second a 3-2 victory coming via overtime in which the Canadiens led two to nothing but unravelled late in the 3rd period. Special teams will be crucial tonight’s contest. In the first two games of the season series Montreal held the Sabres to a single power play each game to ensure victory, while in two Canadiens losses the Sabres scored twice on the power play in both games.
The Sabres and Canadiens although for different reasons are both desperate for these 2 points. First of all the Sabres are in a heated battle for home ice advantage with the Flyers and the divisional lead with the Senators, while the Canadiens scratch and claw with the Leafs and Bruins for the 8th and final playoffs spot. Currently the Sabres are tied for 4th place in the Eastern Conference with the Flyers but hold 3 games at hand. The Canadiens with a win tonight and any loss in overtime or regulation from the Leafs and the Canadiens would grasp the final playoff spot in the East.
It’s Been a While
The Canadiens have not won more than two games in a row since early November when they won five in a row, coincidently two of those five wins came against these very Buffalo Sabres. As for the Sabres who are winners of seven of their last 9 under the tutelage of Lindy Ruff and are on pace to surpass the 100-point mark for the first time since the 1983 1984 season when Scotty Bowman was the Sabres bench boss. The fact that the Sabres are doing so well in spite of plenty of injuries to top players including Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and young star goalie Ryan Miller compounded with the fact the Sabres don’t have a single player in the top 70 in league scoring is quite simply spectacular.