Tonight’s match up features some of the strongest teams in their conferences, one from the East and the other the West and the Montreal Canadiens hit the road and go to sunny California to face off against the the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks are on a streak with five wins in their last six contests. They’re headed on a difficult seven-game, 12-day stretch full of tough games with one of the hardest challenges, happening tonight, Friday, when the Atlantic Division-leading the Habs visit.
San Jose has only allowed eight goals in its last six games, a nice record topped off on Wednesday with a 4-1 victory over their in-state cousins, the sizzling Los Angeles Kings. They are starting to look more like the team that won the Western Conference last year, and look to be hitting their stride after the 20-game mark of the 2016-17 season.
“This is how we played last year down the stretch and in the playoffs,” Sharks forward Logan Couture told media. “We get up on teams, (and) it’s tough for teams to come back.” San Jose has taken both meetings last season, and has won six of the last seven meetings against the Canadiens, who have not done as well on the road, and could even be said to be struggling with only one win in their last five away games from the Bell Centre in Montreal.
The have only been able to score three times during the first two games of a five-game road trip, they won in Detroit in overtime, before losing 2-1 in Anaheim against the Ducks on Tuesday. Canadiens goalie Carey Price has a stellar record though with 13-2-1, 1.68 goals-against, .947 save percentage, and has been te Habs rock, he’s continued to play tight and strong. He has only allowed four goals in his last three starts.
The Habs are 16-5-2 overall, and their forwards Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw who are the team’s two players who went through scoring droughts early on in the season, are starting to produce more lately. Gallagher got three points in the last three matches and Shaw got three goals in his past six outings, which pumped up an offense that ranks fifth in the league going into Thursday, and they now have five players with a minimum 15 points. Their center Alex Galchenyuk is leading that group with nine goals and 13 assists, while star defenseman Shea Weber has 18 points, 10 of which he got on the power play, but in the last three games that PP is 0-for-6 so it needs to explode.
The Sharks are not far behind with a 14-9-1 record, and their goalie, Martin Jones own a great record too of 12-8-1, 2.04 GAA, .921 SP. He has played a huge role in San Jose’s upsurge where they were able to limit four of his last five opponents to one goal or fewer in a game. “He’s one of the top goalies in the league,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters. “He’s just getting better. You’re just seeing the tip of what he’s capable of.” Couture production of late has also picked up, getting three goals and a pair of assists in the last three contests which up his point total to 16. That’s third on the team behind captain Joe Pavelski and defenseman Brent Burns who both have 21 points apiece.
Some possible factors in this game are that Habs captain, Tomas Plekanec, who has 560 points total in his career, has only posted two points in the last 10 games. So he is due to break out. San Jose’s captain Joe Thornton has 1,354 career points and needs only one more to break the tie with Brendan Shanahan for 25th on the NHL’s all-time point list. So he’ll be shooting hard tonight to get that record at home. Montreal’s D-man Andrei Markov is leading the team in assists with 15, and the 37-year-old is basically on pace to have a stellar season, probably his second-best in his career offensively, so he could score tonight too.
Look for a fast paced hard hitting game, with a lot of goals.