Based on the Montreal Canadiens’ less than stellar start to the regular season, I don’t know if I’ve seen a more winnable game for the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are confident, the Canadiens are not, and this is the perfect game to follow what was an incredible home opener for Team Teal.
The Habs are sorely missing Carey Price and Shea Weber, and their preseason and regular season would have you questioning if they actually made it to the Stanley Cup Final last year at all.
Their preseason was a precursor for the struggles the Canadiens would have in their first few regular season games. They won only two games out of six, putting them at a 33 percent win rate in their division. The Canadiens’ regular season so far is a struggle bus of low offense (only three goals in three games), a lack of consistent energy and goaltending woes.
Kind of sounds like the Sharks from last year, actually.
The Canadiens have been quick off the draw and usually start the first period strong, but have been unable to sustain that energy throughout the game. This actually might be a problem for the Sharks, as in their home opener, they began flat footed and spent the first half of the first period on the backcheck. If the Canadiens are going to win this game, it’ll be because of an early lead they’ll be able to gain in the first period by taking advantage of offensive zone draws and set plays off the faceoff.
San Jose will need to be sharp from puck drop in order to stifle Montreal’s early push.
The Canadiens have been hitting big, but the Sharks can hit bigger with their new emphasis on physicality. The Canadiens have been able to gain zone time but were struggling to get consistent shots on goal in their past three regular season games. The Sharks will have to make sure their defense is in top form, especially in their own zone.
Tonight is a huge opportunity for the Sharks to build upon their momentum, and with either Jake Allen or Sam Montembault in net instead of the inimitable Carey Price, this could be a high-scoring game. The possibility for easier goals is exactly what players looking for a bounce-back season (like Timo Meier, for example) need in order to continue to build the team’s confidence.
The Canadiens have had a rough start to the regular season, and without Carey Price in net, their goaltending is a weakness the Sharks are fully capable of capitalizing upon. There’s no reason San Jose can’t win this game. In fact, this might be the easiest win of the road trip.
Will the Sharks build off their momentum?
The Sharks began their regular season with a barn-burner against the Winnipeg Jets, and the Sharks’ are taking the confidence from the 4-3 win into their five-game road trip. After (let’s call it what it is) an abysmal season last year, the Sharks desperately need to get off to a good start to prove that this year will be different.
The Sharks prioritized team chemistry throughout training camp and preseason, and it showed against the Jets. Despite their slow start in the first, by the end of the game all four lines were clicking, and it’s likely that head coach Bob Boughner will rely on their winning formula and keep the same lines against Montreal.
If the Sharks’ can win against the Canadiens (and win with a bigger margin than one goal), it only proves that the Sharks should hold onto their current roster and locker room atmosphere, instead of incorporating Evander Kane back into the lineup once his suspension ends.
Will William Eklund and Jonathan Dahlen get their first goals?
Sharks rookie Jasper Weatherby had himself a game in the home opener, netting his first NHL goal for the Sharks and an assist, but there’s still two Sharks rookies who are waiting for that milestone. William Eklund notched an assist, and Jonathan Dahlen saw some good chances, but both will be looking for that golden goal in tonight’s game.
Will it be Adin Hill or James Reimer in net?
The Sharks’ goaltending is in question, but not in the way you’re thinking. Adin Hill has already shown his dependability in the Sharks’ game against the Jets, but James Reimer has the same amount of upside, and he hasn’t tested the regular season ice yet.
If Reimer is given the start tonight, it might point towards the Sharks taking a more 50/50 approach in net. If Hill starts again, the Sharks might be leaning towards Hill maintaining the majority of games for the time being.
Bold Prediction: I’m predicting that James Reimer is in net, both William Eklund and Jonathan Dahlen will get their first goals, and that the Sharks win, 5-2. Les requins gagneront!