Only one game on the NHL board for (US) Thanksgiving as the New Jersey Devils head to Centre Bell to take on the Montreal Canadiens. The home team is desperately looking for something to be thankful for–they’re mired in a five game losing streak and are coming off one of their most embarrassing losses in recent years. Montreal was humiliated on home ice by the Boston Bruins last time out, losing 8-1 in a game that wasn’t even as close as that lopsided final score suggests.
Montreal has endured a few injuries but not of the variety that should derail a team that had been performing well. The Habs had won 7 of 9 when almost simultaneously they lost forwards Jonathan Drouin for at least 8 week with a broken wrist and Paul Byron who will also be out at least a month with a knee injury. Both players are valuable contributors but not ones that should be ‘irreplaceable’. That being said, the Canadiens haven’t won a game since the duo was sidelined.
The Canadiens may be experiencing a downturn but that’s nothing compared to the grease fire that the New Jersey Devils’ season has become. The Devils were tabbed as a Stanley Cup contender before the season began. The expectation was that goaltender Cory Schneider would return to form and that newly acquired PK Subban and #1 draft pick Jack Hughes would join with returning Taylor Hall to form the nucleus of a playoff caliber team. That hasn’t happened. New Jersey lost 9 of their first 11 games and have shown few signs of finding any traction. They might not be as bad as the hapless Detroit Red Wings but given the considerable talent they have on the roster they’re a significantly bigger disappointment.
New Jersey has shown the ability to ‘raise their game’ in certain situations but have shown no consistency whatsoever. They’ve now become a ‘litmus test’ team that other teams with losing records are loathe to lose to. The result is a 1-5 -5.5 unit record against opponents with losing records. Then again, Montreal is no great shakes in this role either. The Habs are 4-8 -6.9 units against sub .500 opponents. The Devils have been very good against Montreal in head to head play winning 5 of the last 6 meetings. Most recently, they beat the Habs in OT a couple of weeks back to start Montreal’s five game skid.
The Habs might not be a worldbeater but they are a decent team coming off a humiliating beating on home ice. Generally speaking, teams throughout sports respond well to this situation and come out with a strong effort next time out. That’s likely what we’ll get from Montreal today and particularly with goaltender Carey Price between the pipes. The Canadiens are better than they’ve played lately and will use this opportunity to try and redeem themselves from their horrible performance against Boston last time out.