Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
When: Saturday, March 12, 2022; 4:00pm PST
Wait, who are we playing? Landlubber’s Guide to the Montreal Canadiens
Local TV: ROOT Sports NW
National TV: NHL Network
Local Radio: 950 AM KJR
SiriusXM: Channel 220
Last Time Out
The Canadiens visited Climate Pledge Arena back in October, and secured their place in history as the losing team for Seattle’s first ever home win. Brandon Tanev scored twice, with goals added by Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, and Ryan Donato; Philipp Grubauer had 25 saves on the night, and the Kraken put a decisive 5-1 victory in the books. These are some positively joyous highlights if you’re in need of a mood booster.
Stats, Streaks, & Droughts
Montreal has been absolutely on fire lately, playing as well as the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They are 7-3-0 in their last 10, identical to the two teams occupying first and second place in the Atlantic Division — the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Offense appears to be the key, as the Canadiens have scored four or more goals in five of those ten contests. One area they are in need of improvement on is special teams; in this 10-game stretch they sit in the bottom third of the league in PK%, and are producing a paltry 10.8% on the power play.
Seattle isn’t going to win any prizes in the special teams department themselves, sitting below Montreal in PK% and dead friggin’ last on the power play over the last 10 games. But unlike the Canadiens, the Kraken are mired in one of the worst stretches of the season, with a 1-7-2 record over their last 10 games. They have been out-scored over that span by a margin of 39-23, exceeding their season average for goals allowed and dropping below their average for goals scored. There have been some good efforts over the past several games, but Seattle has only been able to convert one of those efforts into a win.
Players To Watch
For most of the season the Canadiens’ offense has had the pickup of a ‘77 Chevette, but the one guy you have to neutralize is center Nick Suzuki. He leads the team in points, with 13 goals and 27 assists through 57 games. His laser wrist shot is a big reason why:
Winger Artturi Lehkonen is on a serious heater of late, going 6+2=8 in just his last five games, including this one against Winnipeg:
And, as we saw in the playoffs last season, forward Cole Caufield can jump up and bite you any time you let your guard down. He is flourishing with the change behind the bench (more on that in a jiffy), with five goals and eight assists in his last nine games:
Injuries, Illnesses, Additions, & Scratches
The Canadiens got some good news earlier this week, with forwards Paul Byron and Jake Evans returning from injury. The bad news is, Montreal still has over $21 million worth of players out of the lineup — not including Shea Weber (LTIR, unlikely to play in the NHL again) and Carey Price (Player Assistance Program). The Injured Reserve list includes forwards Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak, and Kraken Legend Tyler Pitlick; add to that defensemen David Savard and Joel Edmundson; and top it off with goaltenders Jake Allen and Andrew Hammond. So when you hear the names Rem Pitlick and Kale Clague on the broadcast, both recent waiver wire acquisitions, you know why. Montreal is just a few injuries away from asking for volunteers at the concession stand to complete a 20-man lineup card.
For the Kraken, the club placed winger Joonas Donskoi on IR late in the day on Friday, recalling Kole Lind from Charlotte. Donskoi was not in the lineup against Ottawa on Thursday, though it was assumed at the time that he was a healthy scratch. No other information is available about his injury or a timeline for return. Beyond that, no changes to the Injured Reserve, LTIR, or COVID-19 protocol lists — Brandon Tanev remains out for the season; Karson Kuhlman is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
As far as goaltenders, Montreal has been leaning on Sam Montembault lately, and with Andrew Hammond on IR it is likely Montembault gets the call tonight (youngster Cayden Primeau is struggling to find his game this season). For Seattle, Philipp Grubauer cleared the .900 save percentage mark twice in his last 4 starts, and is expected to be in goal for the Kraken.
Odds & Ends
- The Canadiens’ fall from Stanley Cup finalist last season to conference basement this season spurred some changes at the top. First to go was GM Marc Bergevin around (American) Thanksgiving; then in mid-February his successor, Kent Hughes, fired coach Dominic Ducharme, replacing him with former player Martin St. Louis — who had never coached a game in the professional ranks before being named bench boss for Montreal. The Canadiens are 7-5-0 since St. Louis took over.
- The guy who has the third-most points on the Canadiens’ roster isn’t on the Canadiens’ roster anymore, and hasn’t been for nearly a month. Tyler Toffoli was traded to Calgary on February 14th, but the 26 points he accumulated before leaving puts him ahead of everyone in Montreal’s lineup except Nick Suzuki and Artturi Lehkonen.
- As alluded to in the title, the Canadiens are one of the teams Seattle is in competition with for the best draft lottery odds in 2022. With Seattle’s overtime loss to Ottawa on Thursday, combined with the Arizona Coyotes’ win over Toronto, the Kraken and ‘Yotes are tied — 3 points ahead of the Canadiens. Montreal, for their part, doesn’t appear to care about draft position, notching wins in seven of their last nine contests. A win against Seattle for Les Habitants puts them just one point away from climbing out of last place.
- Finally, all is still quiet on the trade front, with no transactions to report for the Kraken and generally a hesitant atmosphere around the league. The most recent trades were back on March 2nd, with two minor league goaltenders changing hands for future considerations. As we all bite our nails to see if Mark Giordano, Calle Järnkrok, or Colin Blackwell will be moved, this is shaping up to be one of the more boring trade deadlines in recent memory.