It just hasn’t gone to plan for the Montreal Canadiens this year. After a reasonable effort in 2016/17, most hockey fans expected Montreal to challenge near the top of the Atlantic Division this season. After 10 games, the Canadiens are rooted to the bottom of the division and punters who backed the 24-time Stanley Cup winners for glory may be regretting that decision. Luckily for them, they may come out on top in this clash though.
Meanwhile, the New York Rangers haven’t done much better. Also sitting at the foot of their own division, the Rangers have won just three games so far this season – although they did run out 5-2 winners against the Arizona Coyotes last time out. However, the Coyotes are yet to win a National Hockey League encounter this year and the Rangers were well fancied to pick up the victory there. This one should be much tougher.
Scoring goals has been a major issue for this Montreal side in recent times; the Canadiens, who are now 28/1 for the Stanley Cup with Bet365, have failed to score more than two goals in each of their last five fixtures – although that run will come to an end at some point. Claude Julien will be concerned at his team’s start to the new campaign and he will be attempting to conjure up a plan on how Montreal can fix their attacking woes.
Defensively, they haven’t been much better either. Montreal are shipping goals and they will be wary of falling too far behind in the postseason race. It would be foolish to label any game as a ‘must win’ before the end of November but building momentum is key to success in ice hockey and the Canadiens are in dire need of a confidence boost. A win, no matter how they get it, is essential this weekend.
KEY MAN: Carey Price. When you are discussing the best goaltenders in the business, Carey Price is a name that ALWAYS crops up – and rightly so. He hasn’t had the best of starts to the 2017/18 season but Montreal will be banking on their shot stopper to step up and be counted in the coming weeks. The fifth overall pick from the 2005 NHL Draft is experienced enough to realise that he has the talent to bounce back from his slow start and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him respond in determined fashion.
Some people may even fancy Montreal for a shutout success this weekend, especially given New York’s struggles. The Canadiens need a leader and 30-year-old Price can be that guy – a rock solid performance from the Montreal goaltender could spur the rest of the roster on in what is a huge game for both franchises.
New York Rangers
Last year it was the New York Islanders, now it is the New York Rangers. The Big Apple has struggled to inspire confidence as a hockey city in recent years and the Rangers are stuck to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division at the present moment. Victory here could propel the visitors on a positive run but that looks unlikely given their difficulties on the road so far this year.
KEY MAN: Mats Zuccarello. With two goals and six assists in 11 appearances so far this year, Zuccarello is having a fairly positive year for a struggling franchise. He has stood out as one of New York’s top talents this season and the veteran has notched a nice set-up for one of the Rangers goals in the victory over Arizona. He could be the difference maker…
A tough one to call but Montreal may just have the edge. A dull contest is expected here but the result is all that matters and the Canadiens could be celebrating on Sunday evening.
CANADIENS 3-1 RANGERS