The Canadiens will get their first look at the defending Eastern Conference champions Thursday night when the Florida Panthers come to town. The Canadiens lost all four matchups with the Panthers last season, so there might be some extra motivation to win this one tonight.
The Panthers come into tonight’s contest at 13-7-2, second in the Atlantic division, while the Canadiens are 10-10-2, seventh in the division. So far this season, Montreal is 3-2-1 against the Atlantic division, losing their last divisional game to the Bruins 5-2.
Cayden Primeau will get the start tonight for the Canadiens against a very tough opponent. It’s clear the Canadiens are getting increasingly confident in his abilities as a goalie. Primeau’s numbers don’t look all that great, sporting a .898 SV% and a 3.41 GAA, but he was phenomenal in his last start in San Jose, picking up the win and making 31 saves in the process.
The Canadiens will have to play well in front of Primeau, as the Panthers are a solid team, capable of making any goalie’s night miserable. A strong defensive effort will be needed if the Habs want to eke out a win. That could be tough on the second night of a back-to-back, but it’s just their second game in the last five days, so fatigue shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
A Couple Of Keys For the Canadiens
The Canadiens are just 5-6 on home ice this season, which is not ideal. You want the Bell Centre to be a tough place to play, using the loud and passionate crowd to your advantage. Having a losing record on home ice, with all the losses in regulation no less, isn’t accomplishing that. Tonight would be a good opportunity for the Habs to start fixing that against a solid opponent. The Panthers have a record of 6-4-2 on the road this season.
Secondly, the Canadiens are better off scoring the game’s first goal and playing with a lead. This season, Montreal is 5-2-1 when they score first and 5-8-1 when they don’t. The Canadiens were able to win yesterday against Columbus when they fell behind, but it’ll be much harder to do against a good Florida squad. Playing with a lead is much more advantageous.