Montreal Canadiens (46-20-7) at Nashville Predators (44-21-8)
|Date & Time||Tuesday March 24, 2015, 8:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Nashville Predators -117 / Montreal Canadiens +106 --- Over/Under: 5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
One of the most important things for the Nashville Predators heading into the post season is to try and get Pekka Rinne back to his best. This was a hockey club that dominated the league for the first half of the season and in doing so got great play from Rinne before he was injured. Since his return the Predators have not played the same, and since the trading deadline Nashville has been one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League in terms of save percentage. Head coach Peter Laviolette has completely changed the identity of this organization as far as how he wants them to play, but Laviolette knows that defense and goaltending are still going to be the biggest key in his club making a post season run. Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres it was nice to see Rinne back at his best, even if it was against the worst offensive club in the league. Rinne stopped all 24 shots he faced on the night and Predators absolutely dominated in a 3-0 shutout. Taylor Beck scored his seventh goal of the season in the second period to snap a scoreless tie, and Craig Smith and Mike Fisher added third period goals to help seal it. Nashville converted on their only power play opportunity on the night and they killed off all four penalties. The victory puts them in position to retake the first spot in the Central Division standings with the way the St. Louis Blues have been sliding. Nashville would certainly like to avoid an opening round match up with the Blues or Chicago if at all possible, and home ice advantage is a must for them despite their struggles at Bridgestone Arena lately. Nashville had lost five straight games on home ice before Saturday night’s win over the Sabres.
In Montreal the Canadiens are trying to hold off the New York Rangers for the first overall spot in the Eastern Conference, as well as secure a potential President’s Trophy. Montreal is tied with the Rangers with 99 points, with New York currently having two games in hand. Montreal has gotten back on track of late, winning three straight and four of their last five games overall. Carey Price has helped the Canadiens shut out their last two opponents by a combined score of 6-0, and he picked up his 40th win of the season on Saturday. Tomas Plekanec scored his 22nd goal of the season late in the opening period and Montreal let Price do the rest until Brendan Gallagher iced the 2-0 win with his 21st goal of the season coming into the empty net. Price has been the best goaltender in the league this season and arguably the best player and he’s the reason why this team has a chance to win a Stanley Cup this season. Last year a lot of Canadiens felt their shot a a title was ripped away from them when Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers injured price in a collision in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Montreal fans and players believe that they should have won that series if Price was in goal, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Canadiens are battling New York down the stretch here as both clubs battle for the top overall seed, and a rematch in the Eastern Finals seems extremely plausible. This time around with Price in net Montreal and their fans will be expecting a much different outcome.
This could be a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview on Tuesday night, but the Predators need to turn it on and get back to the way they were playing early in the year. Montreal has been consistent all year long and they’re getting value as a road underdog in this one with the best goaltender in the league playing against a team that has struggled on home ice recently.