The Detroit Red Wings face an unenviable task in battling the winless Montreal Canadiens (0-and-5) tonight at 7 PM EDT (on Bally Sports Detroit/City TV/TVA Sports/ESPN+97.1 FM) and then the Chicago Blackhawks (0-4-and-1) tomorrow night.
In theory, the 2-1-and-1 Red Wings can make quite the statement by pushing the Habs to the first 0-and-6 start by a Stanley Cup Finalist ever, and yes, if the Wings were to sweep this weekend’s games, they’d serve notice to the rest of the NHL; more realistically, earning a split would afford Detroit genuine optimism regarding their start while vanquishing at least one of their historical opponents, and a winless weekend…Would not be good.
Anyway, the Canadiens took to the ice around 10:30, per the Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan…
Not surprisingly, Jake Allen will get the start for Montreal, per TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie:
Dominique Ducharme confirme que Sami Niku disputera son premier match avec Montréal, ce soir.
Dominique Ducharme confirms that defenseman Sami Niku will make his Canadiens debut tonight.#GoHabsGo— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) October 23, 2021
Montreal’s lineup is…busy…
Sami Niku will tonight become the 938th #Habs player to play a regular season game in @CanadiensMTL history.
Already the 9th player to make team debut this season, emblematic or the significant turnover from the off-season.— Dan Kramer (@DanKramerHabs) October 23, 2021
The Canadiens’ website posted a prospective lineup…
As well as a game preview of sorts…
Following five straight losses, the Canadiens must absolutely get their season back on the rails, starting with tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre.
In their previous outing, the Habs fell to the Carolina Hurricanes by a 4-1 score at the Bell Centre. Despite switching up line combinations Montreal’s offense is still stalled, having yet to score more than one goal in a game this season.
Tyler Toffoli was the lone goal-scorer on Thursday, finishing a Nick Suzuki feed for his first of the season. It was the team’s first power play goal this year, with the man advantage now operating at a 5.3% clip (1-for-19).
Jonathan Drouin remains the team’s points leader with three points in five games.
For their part, the Red Wings are in town for their first game against their Original Six rivals since February 18, 2020, when they swept their 2019-20 season series against Montreal with four wins.
In their most recent game, the Wings were blanked against the Calgary Flames on Thursday but are enjoying a decent start to the season with a 2-1-1 record in their first four games.
Detroit’s offense will have to do without its top scorer and point-getter, Tyler Bertuzzi, who didn’t join his teammates on their Canadian trip as he is currently not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Reuters also posted a game preview…
There’s already a sense of desperation enveloping the Montreal Canadiens less than two weeks into the season.
Following a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, the Canadiens are off to an 0-5 start for the first time since the 1995-96 season. They’ll seek that elusive first victory once again on Saturday when they host Detroit.
“It’s tough right now,” Canadiens center Nick Suzuki told the Montreal Gazette. “The confidence for our group just seems to be low. There’s plays that we make all the time and we’re just not executing them. It’s definitely a tough patch.
“We had some of these my first (year) and even last year, these stretches. Good teams find a way to get out of it. We need to really bounce back.”
The Canadiens lost at home to Carolina 4-1 on Thursday. The only positive was the team’s first power play goal, which was scored by Tyler Toffoli late in the second period.
Montreal has only scored four goals and no more than one per game. Jonathan Drouin has two of those goals.
“It’s not easy to score goals,” Toffoli said. “We’re trying. We’re slowly getting there. Not necessarily time’s running out, but we’ve got to come together and capitalize on our opportunities.”
As did the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey:
The goaltenders: Jake Allen gave the Canadiens a chance to win in his first two starts in goal, but his two most recent appearances have reflected the overall futility being experienced by Montreal’s defensive efforts. Allen is winless in four games and has a 3.07 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage. Thomas Greiss, a 35-year-old German, has a 2-0 record with a 1.00 goals-against average and a league-leading .969 save percentage. The question is whether Greiss can maintain that level over a long period. He had decent numbers in Detroit last season — a 2.70 GAA and a .912 SP, but he didn’t receive a lot of support from the worst offensive team in the league and finished with an 8-19-8 record.
Not enough power: There was lot of excitement Thursday when Tyler Toffoli scored the Canadiens’ first power-play goal of the season, but let’s not forget they had five other power plays where they didn’t score. The Canadiens have one goal from 19 power plays and that’s simply not good enough for a unit that’s last in the NHL. On the other side of the ledger, Carolina scored on its only power play. Montreal has surrendered at least one power-play goal in each of its five games and ranks 30th in the league with a success rate of 55.6 per cent.
This isn’t working, either: While the power play has struggled, the Canadiens aren’t any better in 5-in-5 situations, which has been the team’s strength in recent years. Jonathan Drouin has scored two of Montreal’s four goals and there are seven forwards who have yet to register a point. That group includes rookie sniper Cole Caufield, who is probably going through the longest goal drought of his life, and two-time 30-goal scorer Brendan Gallagher. The veteran thought he had a goal against Carolina, but it was wiped out because of goaltender interference.
Turnaround for Larkin: Tyler Bertuzzi is off to a fast start for the Red Wings, with five goals and an assist in four games, but Detroit is hoping this is a turnaround season for homegrown talent Dylan Larkin. Larkin had a breakthrough season in 2018-19, when he had 32 goals and 73 points, but his past two seasons have been disappointing. He had 19 goals in 2019-20 and scored only nine goals in 44 games last season as he struggled with injuries. He’s healthy again and he has a goal and two assists in three games. But the most encouraging sign is that he’s paying more attention to defence. He has a plus-4 rating after going a combined minus-78 during his first six seasons.
NHL.com’s brief game preview is less cheery:
Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; CITY, TVAS, BSDET, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)
This features a role reversal from last season. The Canadiens, who lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the Stanley Cup Final, are 0-5-0 and have scored four goals in five games. The Red Wings, who were tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the fourth-fewest points (48) in the NHL last season, are 2-1-1 and will play their first road game of the season
Your ugly stat of the day is this: the Red Wings play 7 of their next 8 games on the road.
The Red Wings did say, “Hello” with a Tweet of equipment being loaded on Red Bird III earlier this morning…
Ken Kal’s French is also better than mine. Je suis fromage. Je tiem mon canard.
Stat: Montreal hasn’t scored more than 1 goal in any of their 5 games this season. They have scored 4 goals and have allowed 19. In 5 games played.— Ken Kal (@KenKalDRW) October 23, 2021
And if you’re interested…
🏳️🌈 Don’t miss out on the Pride Night warmup stick auction! 🏳️🌈
Proceeds benefit the Ruth Ellis Center and Affirmations.
To bid → https://t.co/pMfubRsvfD pic.twitter.com/iDlGbVU6pn— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 23, 2021
The Habs have already posted the media availabilities of Jake Evans…
And coach Dominic Ducharme, who mostly spoke in French…
Ultimately, the Wings took to the ice at the Bell Center around 11:30 AM…
Adam Brooks, Cedric Paquette and Chris Wideman – the three healthy scratches for #Habs tonight vs Red Wings – putting in extra work after morning skate. Defenceman Sami Niku will make his Habs debut tonight, taking Wideman’s spot #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/0Wnk4RjLo3— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) October 23, 2021
Dom Ducharme’s message to his players going into tonight’s game: “Show confidence…..control what you can control…..the way you compete, the way you engage, the way you commit to our game.” Sami Niku with his Habs debut tonight. DR— TSN 690 Radio (@TSN690) October 23, 2021
As of 11:45 AM, it looks like Ken Kal is the only correspondent to have made the trip to Montreal:
ce soir, c’est la 598e rencontre entre les Red Wings et les Canadiens. Il s’agit de la 300e réunion à Montréal.— Ken Kal (@KenKalDRW) October 23, 2021
So we waited…
This news popped up regarding tomorrow’s game…
MEDICAL UPDATE: Forwards Ryan Carpenter and Patrick Kane and defenseman Erik Gustafsson will not practice today (Covid-19 Protocol).— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 23, 2021
The Blackhawks have recalled forward Reese Johnson from the Rockford IceHogs.— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 23, 2021
Coach Blashill spoke with the media around 12 PM…
Per Coach Blashill, Detroit will go with 12 forwards and 6 defensemen tonight.— Ken Kal (@KenKalDRW) October 23, 2021
Jeff Blashill said Red Wings would “keep it internally” whether Tyler Bertuzzi has been suspended. Wings can suspend Bertuzzi because he isn’t in Montreal with team because he isn’t vaccinated.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) October 23, 2021
(That’s a “yes”)
Red Wings will go with 12F and 6D in Montreal tonight. Plan is Robby Fabbri slots into Bertuzzi’s spot on Larkin line, Rowney subs into lineup. Similar to how dealt with no Larkin when he was suspended second game.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) October 23, 2021
And I thought everybody knew this:
Red Wings D Moritz Seider said he chose 53 because he had watched Herbie the Lovebug movie the day before he was asked what number he wanted to wear.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) October 23, 2021