Here’s what matters when the Habs meet the Penguins on Saturday at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio), writes Pat Hickey.
These teams are meeting for the second time in a week. The Canadiens’ aggressive forechecking caught the Penguins off-guard last Saturday in Pittsburgh and Montreal skated to a 5-1 victory. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan described the Canadiens as hard to play against. The Canadiens are coming off a 3-0 loss to Los Angeles in their home opener on Thursday.
Shuffling the deck
Claude Julien made his first lineup changes of the season, inserting veteran Tomas Plekanec on the fourth line in place of Matthew Peca. Paul Byron replaces the struggling Jonathan Drouin on the de facto No. 2 line with rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia. Drouin, who is looking for his first point, skates with Max Domi and Artturi Lehkonen.
The loss to the Kings underlined the Canadiens’ inability to score. Montreal fired 40 shots at Kings goaltender Jack Campbell, but aside from one that hit the crossbar and a disallowed goal, there were too many harmless shots from the outside.
Some random stats Montreal has allowed only one power play goal and ranks eighth in penalty killing after posting the second-worst record in the NHL last season. Other stats aren’t as encouraging. The Canadiens have scored only one power play goal while faceoffs continue to be a problem.
Sullivan hasn’t been happy with his team defence, but there’s no doubt this is an explosive team. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have each won two league scoring titles and Jake Guentzel is one of the best third-line centres in the league. Phil Kessel provides scoring on the wing. Kris Letang is healthy and provides offence from the back end.