Nashville Predators vs. Montreal Canadiens Preview: A Shooter's Nighmare

Two of the best goaltenders in the league square off tonight, hoping to push their teams closer to the summit of the standings.

Several weeks ago, this would have been a battle of two President's Trophy contending teams and their Vezina/Hart worthy goaltenders. The first part is still technically true, even though the Predators are three points behind the Canadiens. However, while Pekka Rinne had his name squarely in NHL Awards talk, Nashville's fall back to Earth and Carey Price's continuing run of stellar play has all but ended that conversation.

But there's still a score to be settled. The world was deprived of this goaltender matchup in January, as Rinne was freshly sidelined with his knee injury. Carter Hutton held the Habs at bay, but was felled on a power play goal in overtime. Red lights may be hard to come by tonight, but strap yourselves in and get ready to watch the two dudes between the pipes.

Montreal Canadiens

Here's pretty much the whole story of the Habs:

There they are, in company with noted horrible teams like New Jersey, Edmonton, Arizona and Philadelphia. (I give CBJ a pass since they practically had to ice an AHL team for most of the season.) The Canadiens allow nearly 30 shots per night (22nd) but only take 28 (also 22nd.) Yet despite all of that, the team has scored 24 more even strength goals than it's allowed, and is in a three way tie for most points in the league. Why, pray tell, would that be?

Psst, the reason is in goal, and it rhymes with Scary Spice. If it weren't for numéro trente et un, Montreal would be lucky to be competing for a Wild Card spot. It's what makes his claim to the Hart so resounding. No player has been more valuable to his team than Price has been.

That's not to take anything away from Rinne. Among goalies that have played 2500 5v5 minutes or more, guess who are one and two with pretty ridiculous save percentages? But the Preds have faltered recently, and we can all agree Rinne hasn't exactly been dominating in that time, even if his team hasn't given him much help. Meanwhile, the other guy is responsible for banking almost 16 extra points for the Habs while preventing about 40 (!) goals.

At this point... Hart? Vezina? They are Price's to lose.

Nashville Predators

On the other hand...

Reasons to Watch

  • Predators potted three goals for only the second time this month last game. That was against Buffalo. Is the Price right (not sorry) or are they going to revert back to the Preds of yore?
  • Even if they can't score, Rinne vs. Price should be a hell of a match up.
  • If they can score, watching Price get lit up is going to be a hell of a thing./

The Important Stuff

The final game of the home stand airs tonight at 7 p.m. CST on 102.5 The Game if you like sounds, and FS-TN if you like both pictures and sounds.