Tonight, your 11th place Montreal Canadiens receive the 14th place Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre.
Curiously, these North Eastern division foes have had eerily similar seasons this year. Prior to the season opener, both teams were largely considered to be playoff teams, bubble teams at worst. The Canadiens had just come off a first round, Game 7 OT elimination at the hands of Bruins, and signed Erik Cole to a four year deal. Almost immediately, people said the deal was stupid, too long, Cole wasn’t good anywhere but in Carolina next to Eric Staal, he was always injured, too old, etc. The Sabres were also coming off a 7 game loss to the Flyers in the first round, and made some huge spending moves to usher in the Pegula Era. They signed Christian Erhoff to a massive 10 year contract, then replaced Tim Connolly with Ville Leino. These moves, though questionable in terms and dollars, were largely considered to be successes.
Fast forward to the All Star Break. The Canadiens are in 11th, 8 points out of 8th, and the Sabres are in 14th at 10 points out. Though it’s still a little early to judge the free agency deals, at this juncture Erik Cole has exceeded all expectations and is on route to putting together one of his best statistical seasons, while Erhoff and Leino have largely been disappointments.
In two games against the Sabres this season, the Canadiens have lost both, given up 6 goals while only scoring 3. In contrast, Montreal is coming off a two game win streak, notably with a big one over Detroit. The Sabres won their last game against the Devils in the shootout.
3 Keys to Tonight’s Game:
2. The power play. It needs to come alive tonight. If they really and truly believe that they can make the playoffs, they need to improve the man advantage.
The puck drops at 7:30pm.