At the beginning of the season both the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens were being spoken of in certain channels as Stanley Cup competitors. Ironically, with the Ducks slow start it lead to questions of Anaheim's viability, but when Montreal lost the services of reigning Hart Trophy-winner Carey Price it has been Les Habitants that have sunk and stayed out of the playoff picture. Now with the rosters essentially set for the stretch run, the Ducks look to continue their hot run of form, while the Canadiens claw at relevancy in what is increasingly looking like a lost season for le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.
Ducks: Sunday, 2/28 vs Los Angeles (W 4-2). "Best And Worst: Perry's Hat Trick, Ducks' Power Play Gash Gassed Kings 4-2"
Canadiens: Monday, 2/29 at San Jose (L 2-6). "Canadiens vs Sharks Recap: The Habs Lose, And It Wasn't Even Close"
While other Western Conference teams may have picked up 'bigger' names at the trade deadline, the Ducks were content to add depth forwards while shipping out the same, keeping their strong young defense corps intact and refusing to trade one of their touted prospects. Though currently injured deadline acquisition Brandon Pirri has a new number with Anaheim, the #11 last worn by former Montreal captain Saku Koivu, late pickup Jamie McGinn is expected to be in the lineup while sporting a #88 that had Teemu Selanne incredulous on Twitter. The crux of a squad that finished the best month in franchise history (a 12-1-1 mark in February) is largely unchanged, and will look to build upon an eight-game winning streak.
Ryan Kesler is okay despite taking a late slap shot up high at the final horn in the win over Los Angeles, while Shawn Horcoff is back and practicing with the team after having served his 20-game suspension for violation of the league and Player's Association's performance enhancing substance program. Simon Despres did not practice with the team for an undisclosed reason, but Ryan Getzlaf continues his hot run of form. The Ducks' captain was named the NHL's First Star for February with six goals and 14 assists in 14 games, and is currently riding an 11-game point streak dating back to a goal and assist performance at Pittsburgh on February 8.
Anaheim took both games against Montreal last season, and hold the slight all-time series edge at 12-10-2-2. The Ducks are 6-4-3 at Honda Center against the most decorated club in NHL history, but haven't lost in regulation at home against the Canadiens since before the 2005 full season lockout.
While former Hart Trophy-winning Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore went on to become a bit of a punchline with his PED kerfuffle for continued use of a hair regrowth product (seriously, a hair regrowth product), as well as being wholly sub-mediocre/mediocre in tenures with Colorado, Washington, Minnesota (LOL), and Florida, you'd be hard pressed to have the same kind of laughs about Price. While the defending league MVP is finally once more skating in full pads in practice, outside of his 12 appearances where the Canadiens went 10-2-0 and he posted a .934 save percentage this season, both Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens have combined for a 19-23-5 record with a .903 SV%. For as much credit as the Habs got earlier in the season for turning around their shot metrics, it hasn't been sustained, and the team has crumbled without having one of the best goalies in the world to bail them out.
Defenseman P.K. Subban leads the team in scoring (five goals, 42 assists), with Tomas Plekanec a point back (12 goals, 34 assists) through the squad's 63 games. Max Pacioretty's 23 goals lead the team, but the club has five 10+ goal scorers in their lineup, and despite their 11th place standing in the league for scoring, they're 20th in the league in goals allowed. If Montreal is allowed to play their preferred game, it'll be wide open with the teams trading scoring chances, and with being the 11th least penalized team in the league, the Habs have the 5th best PK overall at nearly an 85% success rate. However, Montreal is at the top of the lower third of the league in road power plays allowed, so the Ducks will likely have their chances against a squad that's allowed over three power play chances against on the road and killed them at a less than 80% success rate away from Centre Bell.
Two hours before face off we'll have the game thread up, featuring the full Stat Pack, likely with expected lines, and of course your Numbers For Nerds.