It's always a treat when the most storied franchise in the NHL comes calling, and nothing says Saturday Night Special more than an early start, right? It's a 6:00 puck drop at Bridgestone Arena tonight...
|Montreal Canadiens||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||27.8||17th||29.1||14th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||29.3||19th||27.6||13th|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.943||3rd||.920||19th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.49||9th||3.20||22nd|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.32||17th||3.31||16th|
Goaltending and special teams have been the outstanding aspects of Montreal's game so far this season,
Montreal is contending for the Atlantic Division lead, but a rough 2-4-0 stretch of late has them in danger of slipping back a bit from Boston and Tampa Bay. The Habs this year are winning through a formula which should sound familiar to Nashville fans - stellar goaltending from Carey Price, one of the best penalty killing units in the league, and just enough goal scoring to get the job done.
And much like Nashville in recent years, they have a defenseman leading the way - P.K. Subban is your reigning Norris Trophy winner, and while he's one of the most dynamic players in the game (seriously, keep your eye on him tonight) he also comes under fire for defensive gaffes, to the point where he's not even a sure thing to make Canada's Olympic hockey team, which is one of the major stories to follow over the next few weeks as the rosters get set.
#76 / Defenseman / Montreal Canadiens
May 13, 1989
|2013 - P.K. Subban||37||4||22||26||+8||37||2||0||0||1||104||3.8|
The one guy who hasn't worked out for the Canadiens is Danny Briere, signed as a free agent last summer (while many here in Nashville hoped the Preds would land him). With just five goals and five assists so far, his ice time has dwindled lately, and the 36-year-old vet was scratched Thursday at St. Louis.
Another greybeard who apparently won't be scratched will be depth defenseman Francis Bouillon, who spent three seasons as a Nashville Predator before returning to Montreal as a free agent. At 38, he's nearing the end of his NHL run, but he'll get a nice chance to return to Smashville in enemy colors tonight. Read Jim Diamond's piece over at the Examiner for more on The Cube.
The Preds have been a streaky team of late, leading to a roller coaster of emotions for the fan base. Consider how things have gone since late October: lose two, win two, lose four, win three, lose one, win two, lose five, win three, lose two coming into tonight's action. That 10-12-2 run has the Preds rubbing shoulders with Winnipeg at the bottom of the Central Division standings, and it's up to the current crop of players to turn things around. Thanks to the NHL's holiday roster freeze, there won't be any trades happening for the next week.
According to Josh Cooper, Colin Wilson is expected back in the lineup tonight after being scratched Thursday night at Tampa Bay. After his standout run in the shortened 2012-13 season, many expected him to lead the team in scoring this season, but the problem is that Willy just doesn't shoot the puck often enough. Now in his fifth NHL season, I think it's getting to the point where we know what we're dealing with here - Wilson is usually one of Nashville's top possession forwards, so he certainly provides value as a two-way player, but he's not going to lead the charge offensively.
#33 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators
Oct 20, 1989
|2013 - Colin Wilson||34||5||10||15||-1||8||2||0||1||45||11.1|
Willy's performance will be under the microscope tonight, perhaps a bit unfairly considering his production is right there alongside that of Mike Fisher and Matt Cullen, veterans who are just as much to blame for Nashville's scoring woes.
Who will step up and take charge against the Canadiens tonight? Who knows, it could be Seth Jones (recall what he did in Montreal a couple months ago).
We'll find out at 6:00 p.m.... will I see you there?