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Preview: A Saturday scouting report on the Montreal Canadiens

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An in-depth look at the Bruins’ Saturday opponent.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts:

Time: 7pm EST

Place: Centre Bell, Montreal, Quebec

Place to Watch: NESN, CBC, NHLN-US, TVAS, Sportsnet

Place to Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub.

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The Montreal Canadiens’ season has been a disappointment. Seen as a playoff team coming into the 2017-18 season, the Habs currently sit 6th in the Atlantic Division with 40 points in 41 games.

The Canadiens may be considered one of the more “unlucky” teams in the NHL. They sit 25th in 5v5 PDO at 98.7. Breaking that stat down, at 5v5, they are 27th in the league in shooting percentage at 6.3% and 16th in save percentage at 92.3%.

Behind that poor shooter luck are Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin, who sit way below their shooting talent at 3.8% and 6.0% 5v5 shooting percentages respectively. No one can predict regression, but if I were a betting man, I’d expect those numbers to rise by the end of the season.

On the season, Montreal sits middle-of-the-pack in shot metrics. They have an adjusted CF% of 51 and xGF% of 51.6. That sits 14th and 9th respectively. However, as the season has gone on, Montreal has been getting worse in shot metrics as you can see below.

Taking a look at their 5v5 heat maps, a trend becomes clear, the middle is clogged.

Offensively, the Habs rely on a lot of shots from the boards and the point. Based on that big red bubble in front of the net, it looks as though their shot quality relies more on the rush and rebounds. That big blue blob between the faceoff dots and the point indicates that they probably don’t work too hard at creating opportunities in the center of the ice.

There is a similar trend defensively. It looks as though they clog the center of the ice to force lower quality shots. However, that red circle in the high slot may show that there are holes in the Montreal defense.

One way to take advantage of a team that is clogging the center of the ice, is by driving wide on entry and letting the defense collapse, opening up holes in front of the defense where late forwards of defensemen can receive the puck and get to the high slot.

Bruins Keys at 5v5

  • Shut down the front of their net
  • Wait for passing lanes to open up in the offensive zone

The Habs also have a similar trend on the powerplay as they do at 5v5. They don’t take many shots from the center of the ice. They rely on shots from the top of the right circle and the net front.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk have taken the most powerplay shots for the Habs this season. Pacioretty seems to have taken on both a net-front and half-boards roles, but Galchenyuk has exclusively been used on the right side of the ice. With Weber sidelined with a foot injury, the Bruins don’t have to worry about his one-time threat.

Bruins Keys to the PK

  • Don’t let them get one-timers from the right circle
  • Protect the front of the net

When it comes to the Habs penalty kill, they do a pretty good job of suppressing shots at the tops of the circles, but besides that, it is a complete tire-fire.

The Canadiens give up far more shots than league average from the low slot. Perhaps Pastrnak ripping off one-timers is not the best strategy against the Habs.

Bruins Keys to the Man Advantage

  • Get the puck to skilled players down low
  • Out man them in close

3 Things to Watch For

  1. The Habs are 2nd in the NHL in pace. Look for a lot of shots in this one.
  2. Most of the Canadiens’ players take and draw less penalties than the average player. Look for most of this game to be played at even strength unless Gallagher has a say in it.
  3. Speaking of Gallagher, he will take a lot of shots. Watch for those to come from the right boards or in front of the net.