The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (15-26-5) at the Montreal Canadiens (8-29-7). SBN Blog: Habs Eye on the Prize
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG
Worst in the League Over Past 10 Games
When evaluating how far into the basement the New Jersey Devils are capable of going, I think most people assume that Montreal is out of reach in the standings. However, the Devils have been similarly bad recently. In their past 10 games, the New Jersey Devils are 1-9-0. No team has a worse points percentage over that span, as the Montreal Canadiens are 1-6-3. The Canadiens are still losing a lot of games, but the Devils have matched them in futility over the past stretch of games.
Goaltending is a Struggle
The Montreal Canadiens, like the New Jersey Devils, have been relying on their third and fourth string goaltenders to get them through much of this season. Carey Price has still not played a game this season, and Jake Allen last played nearly a month ago as the Canadiens have had to rely on Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. Montembeault last played on January 30, and has an .891 save percentage with a 4.10 goals against average this season in 19 games (2-8-4). On his career, Montembeault is 11-16-7 with an .891 save percentage and 3.57 goals against average.
Cayden Primeau, picked in the 7th round of the 2017 Draft, has an .885 save percentage and 4.26 goals against average for the Canadiens in nine appearances (1-5-1) this season. This still has the Canadiens with a better save percentage than the New Jersey Devils, though. The Devils as a team have an .888 save percentage, and Jon Gillies - the likely starter tonight - has an .889 save percentage to go with his 1-6-0 record. This is truly a matchup of the worst goaltending the NHL has to offer - but with how bad both these teams are at finishing their shots, at least one of these goalies could have a good game.
Even when things go well for the New Jersey Devils, they find a way to lose. With Pavel Zacha moving back to center - a move that probably did not sit well with any Devil fan that can remember how Zacha has historically played there - the Devils actually had a good performance from his line last night, with a 12-2 shots advantage and no goals allowed. However, Nico Hischier, finally playing with good linemates, was on the ice for two goals against last night. Meanwhile, the Mercer line created little, while the fourth line had great underlying numbers but still managed to give up a goal.
When teams play a game like this, do you even mess with the lines? Who on the team could possibly lift the bottom six if Tomas Tatar and Andreas Johnsson cannot cut it on Dawson Mercer’s line? Do you try to give the lines more depth by splitting Hischier from Bratt and Sharangovich? This team is at “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” territory, and I do not even know where to begin approaching this jumbled mess. I am still wondering why players like Nate Schnarr and Fabian Zetterlund have not been getting chances, though - especially with Mercer’s recent struggles and the decision to put Zacha back at center.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Do you think it’s worth watching? At what point do you think Fitzgerald’s hand will be forced? How do you think the Devils compare to the Canadiens? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.