San Jose Sharks (35-28-8) at Montreal Canadiens (45-20-7)
|Date & Time||Saturday March 21, 2015, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Montreal Canadiens -160 / San Jose Sharks +144 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+. Start your 7-day FREE trial today!|
The Montreal Canadiens have opened up a four point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Atlantic Division crown with 10 games remaining in their season. While that might be priority for this club it’s strange to think that they might not actually want to win the entire Eastern Conference. If the playoffs started today the Canadiens would find themselves in a first round match up with the rival Boston Bruins. It’s obvious which of those two teams has had the better regular season, but that would be a worst case scenario for the Canadiens in the first round. The animosity generated by that rivalry and the anything can happen type of environment that would exist would make it extremely entertaining to watch, but also an extremely difficult opening round challenge for the Habs. After struggling recently the Canadiens appear to be back on track. The club has won three of their last four games and are coming off a 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. Dale Weise and Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring for the Canadiens in the opening period and Carey Price did the rest. While it wasn’t the best performance for Montreal, it was another example of their effective style of play. This is a club that tries to play with a lead and limit quality scoring opportunities the rest of the way. They were out shot by the Hurricanes 31-22 on the night, but once they gained a two goal advantage they focused on protecting their own end. Price continues to elevate his game and he picked up the shutout in this one after recording 31 saves. Now the Canadiens will face another challenge against a club that is fighting for its playoff lives and needs virtually every possible point the rest of the way.
The San Jose Sharks went out and did what was expected of them on Thursday night. They found a way to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs, something that just about every team that plays the Maple Leafs does. It ultimately won’t change their playoff fate, but it was good to see them at least show up in this one. San Jose really needs to just about run the table in order to find their way into the post season, and the odds of that happening with this club are slim to none. For whatever reason they just can’t seem to put a hot streak together and it’s just up and down play over and over again. Against the Maple Leafs the Sharks got a first period goal from Tomas Hertl and doubled their lead early in the second on Logan Couture’s 23rd goal of the season. Toronto would get to within a goal but Melker Karlsson and Tommy Wingels added goals to lift San Jose to the 4-1 win. Antti Niemi picked up the win after making 27 saves. It’s hard to say that a club has no chance of making the post season when they’re only six points out of a playoff spot, but this club just hasn’t shown that they have what it takes to make that possible. There is going to be a lot of turnover in San Jose once this season comes to a close.
The Canadiens are the much better team but this is one of those games where one team is absolutely desperate and the other is not. Montreal will be tough to beat if they can get a lead, but the Sharks have some decent value as a club that needs to win.