The Montreal Canadiens are 29th in NHL scoring (1.90 goals per game) and 28th in goals-against (3.4). They are near the bottom in both the power play and penalty killing. Only the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes have an uglier record than the 2-8 Habs.
But the Detroit Red Wings have no right to look at the Montreal Canadiens as a struggling team. No right whatsoever.
“I’d start by saying that the last time we played them they kicked our butts in here,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said.
The 6-1 loss to Montreal on Oct. 23 was the Red Wings’ most lopsided loss of the season. The Red Wings (4-3-2) have been far more competitive this season than last season. But that wasn’t true against the Canadiens.
“Our focus is more on ourselves than on them,” Blashill said.
The Red Wings’ main focus these days is cleaning up their defensive play. Their 3.44 goals-against per game ranks 30th in the NHL and it’s worse than it was last season. Blashill thought the team gave up too many easier goals in the 5-4 loss to Toronto.
“We gave up our zone too easy,” he said.
Montreal Canadiens Challenging At Home
That’s another reason why they can’t afford to look at Montreal as a slumping team.
“In this building ,they could be 8-0 or 0-8. It doesn’t matter,” Blashill said. “In this building momentum matters. You had better do a good job of not giving up easy chances…Every time you give up a chance the momentum builds in this building.”
If you give up a second, third or fourth chance, you suddenly feel like you are being overrun. Montreal fans can help the Canadiens. Players all know that.
“You have to find ways to quell that momentum,” Blashill said. “The best way to do that is to play in their end as much as possible Make them defend.”
Blashill’s group will have to play Montreal again without Tyler Bertuzzi. He can’t play any games in Canada because he is the NHL’s lone non-vaccinated player. Canada’s regulations prohibits non-vaccinated people to cross the border. The Red Wings are 0-2 playing without Bertuzzi. He will rejoin the team Wednesday in Boston. He has been skating on his own in Detroit.
Dylan Larkin didn’t practice Monday. Blashill called it a maintenance day.
Rookie Joe Veleno will be in Detroit’s lineup, his second game since being called up to replace Bertuzzi. Blashill thought he started slowly against Toronto. “(But) I thought by the end of the night he looked pretty good,” Blashill said.
Blashill didn’t make any commitment to Veleno’s status beyond the Tuesday game.
“My question is he ready to help us win?,” Blashill said. “If he plays consistently the way like he did in the third (against Toronto) then he is ready to help us win. If he plays consistently like he did in the first, then he’s not ready to help us win.”