A visit to the home of les Habitants is always a special occasion, particularly for a Western Conference team who rarely get to enjoy the electric atmosphere of the Bell Centre.
The last time the Sharks visited la belle province was December 4, 2010. Logan Couture was in his rookie season. Antti Niemi was battling for the starting job with Antero Niittymaki. It was still a month before Sidney Crosby would get his concussion/neck fracture/whatever that was. After the season, Alexander Ovechkin would be voted to the second team All Star as a LW without also being voted as the first team RW. It was another era.
The Montreal Canadiens are the most storied franchise in the NHL. They have by far the most championships (to put it in perspective, the Maple Leafs have the second most), the most Hall of Famers, a mystique around the team that forbids them from hiring a coach that does not speak French*, and are the only franchise to survive from the NHL precursor NHA. Naturally, players get amped up to play the Canadiens, particularly those hailing from Quebec.
*The Canadiens, as the only Quebecois team for most of the NHL's history, have a tradition of pandering to its province and filling its teams with French-Canadian players. This dates back to before the draft, when the Habs had a monopoly on signing French Canadian players. That practice was upheld even through the first few years of the draft. The Canadiens were allowed the first two overall picks in exchange for their first and second round picks so they could keep the French-Canadian tradition and select good Quebec players. This practice was discontinued with expansion.
After facing one of the best goalies in the league in Tuukka Rask, the Sharks now face yet another formidable goaltending foe: Carey Price. This season, Carey Price has the highest SV% and second-lowest GAA among the six-man group of goalies who have played over 500 minutes. And Price, unlike Rask, plays without the protection of the smothering Bruins defense that Boston has become known for.
This goaltending challenge coincides with the Sharks suddenly lacking in offense. Monday marked the first time the Sharks scored less than three goals in a game, and now the Sharks have only scored one goal (of the non-shootout variety) in the past two games.That obviously needs to change; as Todd McLellan has often said, it's a race to three in the NHL.
Expect to see a lot of shots this afternoon. The Habs, according to the always excellent Extra Skater, are fifth in the league in Fenwick for per 60 minutes, with 44.9 shots directed towards the net (still 9.6 attempted shots fewer than the Sharks per game).
They also rank 11th worst in the league in Fenwick against per 60, allowing 43.1 chances (the Sharks are 5th best, allowing only 35.0 attempts). Basically, they take a lot of shots and give a lot up. All signs point to the Sharks continuing to rack up the Fenwicks, though likely without as big of a disparity as that link illustrated.
The Sharks have continued to be the best team in the league (no disrespect to the 9-1 Avalanche*) despite mounting injuries. Look for them to try to maintain that status. It was revealed this morning that Brent Burns returned to San Jose after the Boston game, meaning his "mouth" injury was much more severe that was first thought. Dan Boyle, Martin Havlat, Raffi Torres, and Adam Burish also remain out. It's a veritable MASH unit not even a month into the season.
*All disrespect to Jimmy Kimmel.
Good news is Tommy Wingels might return to the lineup after the unpunished headshot by Zdeno Chara that knocked him out early from the Bruins game. He remains a game time decision.
The Canadiens have also been hit with the injury bug, with Emelin, Drewiske, Parros, Pacioretty, Prust, Briere, and former Sharks fan favorite Douglas Murray out. Shaping up to be one hell of a matchup, folks.
As this is a perfect opportunity to show off my absolutely horrible French, allow me to share a favorite quote of mine:
"Je reçois renversé, mais je me lève à nouveau. Vous n'allez jamais me tenir vers le bas."
|8-1-1, 17 points
||6-4-0, 12 points|
|1st in Pacific