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Pregame: Canadiens vs Panthers

April 2, 2024, 3:32 PM ET [111 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me @KarineHains for all updates about the Montreal Canadiens and women's hockey

With the Senators’ win over the Jets on Saturday, the Canadiens are now dead last in the Atlantic division and 27th in the league. Still, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for Habs’ fans but the biggest one is probably that with nine games to play, they’ve already got the same points they got in 82 games last season. In a rebuilding process, teams do not become contenders overnight, there must be a progression, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing in Montreal this season. There’s progress both individually and collectively. Of course, that means the team will be drafting later, but at this stage, it’s not a bad thing. Teams that are bottom dwellers for years on end and who got the top picks year after year have not had great success. There’s more to a rebuild than drafting first, just ask the Oilers or the Sabres for instance.

Tonight’s visitors at the Bell Center, the Florida Panthers, are at the other end of the spectrum, trying to claw their way to the very top of the standings, but they’ve lost six of their last 10 games and after being bested by the Maple Leafs 6-4 yesterday, the Cats will no doubt be hungry tonight.

Tonight’s tilt will be the fourth and last one between the two sides this season and the Panthers will have the opportunity to sweep the season series. The Panthers won the November game 5-1, the December one 4-1, and the February one 4-3 with Samuel Montembeault in net. Tonight, the netminder will take another crack at it as Martin Dt-Louis has already confirmed he was getting the nod tonight. In six games against the team that drafted him, Montembeault has got a 0-4-1 record, a 5.71 GAA, and a .871 SP. The only change to the line-up tonight will be Kaiden Guhle’s return after his one-game suspension. To make room for him, Jonathan Kovacevic will skip a turn.

The Canadiens will want to keep a close eye on Sam Reinhart as the center has a six-game point streak going. The 28-year-old is having a breakout season with 87 points so far, which is 20 more than what he had last season. Reinhart is also quite the threat on the penalty kill as he’s got 5 shorthanded goals so far this season one of which came against the Canadiens. Both Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe have five points against the Habs this season and Barkov has five goals in six games against Montembeault for a 29.4 shooting percentage.

The Panthers have won nine of their last 10 games against the Canadiens. In that period, the sole Canadiens’ win came on 29th April 2022, a week after Guy Lafleur passed away and with the Cats using almost an American team line-up to rest their big guns for the playoffs. It won’t be the case tonight and the Canadiens had better be ready if they want to claim the win.

In other news, the team announced yesterday that Cayden Primeau was the Molson Cup winner for March. The trophy is given monthly to the player who has accumulated the most points for being one of the game's stars. In five matches in March, Primeau was named the first star of the game twice and he kept a 1.97 GAA and a .939 SP. Clearly, the young netminder was eager to show that the lack of action this season did not interfere with his development. Martin St-Louis also said that there's a possibility that Christian Dvorak will be back before the end of the season as he is ahead of schedule in his rehab.
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