Canadiens Final Home Game Of 2018 Is Of Massive Importance
The Montreal Canadiens close out their 2018 Bell Centre schedule tonight against the visiting Boston Bruins in a game that sees the winner take an extremely valuable 2 points the Atlantic Division.
The Canadiens have been on a roll lately winning 6 of their last 8 games (6-2-0) after dropping 6 of their previous 8 (2-4-2). While the Habs are hoping to go streaking tonight, seeking their 3rd straight win, the Bruins have lost 2 straight and are 4-6-0 in their last 10.
The Bruins are sorely missing All World center Patrice Bergeron and the C MacAvoy that returned from a brutal concussion is not the same MacAvoy that went off for 6 points in 7 games before injury. MacAvoy has 1 point in 6 games since returning and the B's are struggling.
Bruin's Solid Between The Pipes
The Bruins are getting good goaltending though this season with long time starter Rask having lost his starting role to 33 year old former Hab J Halak (9-5-2, 2.40 GAA, .926 SP%). Both goaltenders have pretty much split the starts with Halak starting 17 games to Rasks 16. Tonight, we expect Halak to get the nod against Carey Price in a match up that all Canadiens fans can get into.
Price Playing Like Price Should
Carey Price is your expected starter for the Canadiens and brings in a 13-8-4 record with a 2.90 GAA and .902 SP%. Price is rounding into form lately as well. His last 5 game appearances have him posting a .923 SP% on his last 118 shots against. Great time for Price to be playing like Price and it's no surprise that this improvement coincides with Captain Weber's return to the ice.
Weber Is Elite
Speaking of Shea Weber, he has been enjoying the best hockey of his career since returning. Granted, it's a small sample size of 9 games but you can't ignore the obvious: Weber is as Elite as they come in the NHL.
In his 9 games since returning from foot and knee injuries/surgery he has 4 G, 3 A, and is +6. Weber's .78 PPG pace is his highest in his career and best since the 13-14 seasons .71 PPG pace.
That season he scored 56 points and 23 goals. Weber is showing no signs of slowing down and now has his knee and foot repaired to top condition.
His advanced stats are at his highest ever pace with a staggering 61.6 CF%, 59.4 FF%, and 103.3 PDO. All on pace for career highs... for now.
With Weber's return the Defense has performed much better. Mainly because Weber has taken an average of 25:30 TOI away from others and uses the time very effectively. I couldn't be happier to have Weber on the team and as Captain.
Huge Divisional Points Up For Grabs
The Habs and B's will likely play a playoff like game tonight. The Canadiens last home game of the season, against a long time rival, for 2 points that would help both teams stay in the playoff picture. The Habs 39 points (7th place in Wild Card Standings) is closely followed by the Bruins 38 points with both teams having played through 33 games so far.
Both teams have a bit of room ahead of the 9th place NY Islanders (34 pts) and 10th place Carolina Hurricanes (33 pts) but with more than half a season remaining a 5 point lead in the standings is pretty minimal. Pushing that to 7 points after tonight would at least let the Canadiens focus on potentially catching the Maple Leafs (44 pts) and a better playoff match up.
The Canadiens have a .515 Win % right now and will need to add on a win or two to get themselves to the required 55-56 Win % that is likely the requirement to make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. A win tonight would put them at .53 Win % and give the Sabres and Leafs a bit more pressure in the standings, which would be nice. The Habs aren't catching Tampa so if a Divisional Playoff position isn't in the cards they have to at least maintain a pace for 7th place to avoid a first round match with the loaded Lightning.
But first, let us watch the Canadiens close out 2018 at the Bell with a big victory as an early Christmas gift for the city of Montreal and the Canadiens army of fans around the world.
Also, if you have a chance to check out Lake Louise and Banff in the winter, do it. It's a winter wonderland with so much to do.