After a strong start on the road, the Montreal Canadiens return to the friendly confines of the Bell Centre for their home opener tonight, welcoming the New York Rangers. It’s only four games in, but beating Toronto, Boston, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh to start the campaign is certainly the kind of start the team and the fans were looking for.
Without getting carried away, there are plenty of positives for the club to take from their opening road trip: Captain Max Pacioretty seems to be relishing his new role and his offseason injury doesn’t seem to be hampering him too badly. Alex Galchenyuk is adjusting well to playing centre, giving the Habs solid depth throughout the forward lines. The defensive group has been solid. And of course Carey Price has been, well, Carey Price.
Naturally there is a fair amount of optimism around the team as they welcome a very strong New York Rangers club this evening. The Rangers will likely be the stiffest test of the young season thus far. They boast depth on both forward and defense, and of course elite-level goaltending in the form of Henrik Lundqvist. They come into the game at 3-1-0 and atop the Metropolitan Division, but are coming off a tough loss at home to the Winnipeg Jets, so one has to figure New York will come out strong.
Projected New York Lines:
Rick Nash – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Kevin Hayes
Viktor Stalberg – Oscar Lindberg – J.T. Miller
Emerson Etem – Dominic Moore – Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle – Kevin Klein
Scratches: Tanner Glass, Dylan McIlrath, Jarret Stoll
Projected Montreal Lines:
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
Lars Eller – Alex Galchenyuk – Alex Semin
Tomas Fleischmann – David Desharnais – Dale Weise
Brian Flynn – Torrey Mitchell – Devante Smith-Pelly
Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin – Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu – Tom Gilbert
Scratches: Paul Byron, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi
– The Habs won the season series 2-1 last season.
– 7 of the last 8 matchups between these teams have ended in a shutout. 5 of the last 6 head-to-head games have been decided by two goals or less.
– The Canadiens have never gone 5-0 to start a season in franchise history.
Puck drop is at 7:30 EST. You can catch the game on Sportsnet 360 and RDS.