The Vancouver Canucks vs. the Montreal Canadiens. Remarkable isn’t it, how the connotations surrounding a match-up can change so dramatically during the course of an NHL season.
On November 29th, 2021 when these two teams last met, the Canucks were three games away from firing their head coach Travis Green and replacing him with Bruce Boudreau. They actually won two of those three matches, both of Green’s final two road games, including a 2-1 victory over the Habs with Conor Garland notching the game winner early in the second period.
Both clubs were essentially down and out and both fired their general managers and their head coaches in season. The Canucks recovered to the point of being a playoff threat while the Canadiens have recovered just enough to be a late season, loosey-goosey pain-in-the-arse.
“We’re playing a much more aggressive game, which is leading to turnovers, more puck possession,” Montreal winger Paul Byron said Wednesday morning. “Can’t say enough about playing with confidence, it’s a different game, you’re a different player when you have it and you can see a lot of guys are getting it back in their game.”
They’re building for the future, rebuilding that confidence in their young players and relishing the chance to win and play spoiler. That’s the Habs job tonight at Rogers Arena as they finish up a four-game western road trip under their new head coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis.
“They’re believing, they can skate, they’re getting better goaltending, and they’re having fun, and I don’t know if they were having fun before.” Canucks coach Boudreau said of the Canadiens. “The one thing I always know about the Canadiens is that they can always skate and when they’re skating and having fun they’re a tough team to beat. Not too many teams go into Calgary and Edmonton and win, let alone going into Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and winning those games.”
“Better” goaltending is arbitrary. Yes, Samuel Montembeault beat the Oilers Saturday night with a 28-save performance, but on the season he’s 6-11-4 with a 3.66 GAA and a .897 save percentage filling in for injured Jake Allen, Andrew Hammond and ultimately Carey Price. Cayden Primeau should be the back-up.
Hot Habs continue to be Nick Suzuki, putting up 12 points in his last seven games, and Cole Caulfield, who’s exploded under St. Louis, posting 14 points in his last 11 games.
“We’re starting to have fun again, it’s starting to translate into our game, and it’s starting to pay off for us,” Byron added.
The Vancouver Canucks situation is well documented and the Western Conference scoreboard watching continues. The only other NHL game Wednesday night involves the Edmonton Oilers hosting the Washington Capitals. The Cap’s beat the Flames in Calgary Tuesday night and are going back-to-back.
With a win and an Oilers’ loss, the Canucks would be tied with Edmonton in points, just behind the wildcard slots.