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Canadiens at Sharks Preview: Hoping to rebound at home

On a two-game losing streak, San Jose is hoping to beat a struggling Montreal team to snap out of a slump.

Ben Chiarot #8 of the Montreal Canadiens tries to slow down Lane Pederson #18 of the San Jose Sharks in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 19, 2021 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks finally return home to SAP Center for the first time since their season opener against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 16. Tonight, they will take on the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens have had a horrific start for a team that was a Stanley Cup Finalist just a couple of months ago, with a 1-6-0 record. The team ranks dead last in the NHL in goals per game, 31st in power play percentage and shooting percentage, 30th in faceoff wins, 29th in penalty kill percentage and 28th in shots on goal per game. They have been complete bottom-feeders to start the season. Their motivation is at an all-time low, so the Sharks must capitalize on that and use it to their advantage if they want to win this game.

Speaking of the Sharks, the team started off the season strong, but have found themselves in a bit of a rut as of late, losing their last two games against the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators. They currently rank third in the Pacific Division, behind the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The team has ranked very well in most categories around the league. The one thing they need to get more of is shots on goal, so we’ll see if they can manage to do that against Montreal.

The Canadiens’ biggest threat is forward Jonathan Drouin, who has 2 goals and 5 points through seven games played this season after taking a long leave of absence to focus on his mental health last year. A seemingly rejuvenated player, Drouin looks likes he may finally be reaching the potential that he once had when he was drafted.

The Canadiens’ starting goaltender, Jake Allen, holds a 1-5-0 record on the season, along with a .890 save percentage (SV%) and -3.31 goals saved above expectation (GSAx). His counterpart, Samuel Montembeault, is 0-1-0 with a .870 SV% and -2.29 GSAx. Goaltending has been a weak point for them all season, as they’ve missed Carey Price, who is currently on a leave of absence from the team as art of the NHL/NHLPA’s Player Assistance Program.

Coming out with a slow tempo against Nashville cost the Sharks the game and they can’t afford for that to happen again. They’ll need to come out with full throttle if they want to get back in the win column.

Will the Canadiens feel Timo Meier’s wrath?

Timo Meier has been an interesting player for the Sharks this season. The 2020-21 saw Meier put up 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) through 54 games. He’s begun the 2021-22 season on a six-game point streak, with 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) total.

Meier seems much more confident, is driving play more, creating high quality shots and getting a ton of volume to the net. He has been one of the Sharks’ most valuable forwards, and playing against a team like Montreal, which has a ton of power forwards, it’ll be useful for the Sharks to have one of their own playing with a hot hand, as well.

Can the power play rebound?

Through their last two games, the Sharks' power play has gone 0-for-5. It’s not shocking that the team also lost both games.

This team’s early-season success stemmed off of the special teams thriving, and now that they've gone cold, so has the team at even-strength. Erik Karlsson has been held off of the scoresheet the past two games — note that four of his six points this season were on special teams.

The same can be said for Kevin Labanc, who started the season great and has now been held off of the scoresheet. All of his points thus far have come on the power play.

If this team wants success, either together or individually, they need their power play to contribute, or else it’ll be a long year. They should hope to get back on track tonight.

Is Tomas Hertl waiting to explode?

He hasn’t been bad, but with the season some of the Sharks have had to start, Tomas Hertl’s production has been a little head-scratching, with just 3 points through six games, while averaging 17:43 of ice-time.

I think Hertl is waiting to explode tonight, against a weak defensive team and a struggling goaltender. This just seems like a game Hertl will flourish in.