Canadiens visit Blackhawks in search of third straight win
CHICAGO — If the Montreal Canadiens are to remain in contention for a postseason berth, they will have to rely on contributions throughout their lineup.
Montreal will take a two-game winning streak into its game Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Canadiens have discovered a measure of success of late after they stumbled through a five-game skid and hope to continue on the right path as they continue a three-game road trip.
The Canadiens are coming off a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in which they got a goal from each of their four lines and used two goals from Paul Byron to capture both ends of the home-and-home series against Ottawa.
Montreal coach Claude Julien hopes that his team’s style of play along with the balanced scoring attack that has sparked the Canadiens during a four-game stretch in which Montreal is 3-0-1 continues Sunday at the United Center.
But now Julien is looking for his team to take another step forward and find a way to play with more of a killer instinct.
“We’ve talked about how we want to finish,” Julien told reporters after Thursday’s victory, according to the team’s official website. “Especially when you have the lead, it’s easy to kind of sit back and get comfortable and weve done that at times this season.
“That’s an area we’re trying to improve on. I think in the last little while we’ve been better in the third (period) and we’ve kind of controlled the period — even though we’ve had the lead.”
Keeping the scoring coming from all four lines will certainly help Montreal’s case for extended success.
“When you’ve got four lines that can play the way we’ve been lately, that can play and push the pace and play in their end, forecheck, it certainly makes it hard for the other team,” Byron told reporters after Thursday’s victory.
Chicago enters Sunday’s game on a six-game losing streak, the most recent of which came in a 4-3 setback on the road against the Vegas Golden Knights. While the Blackhawks’ front office hoped that the firing of coach Joel Quenneville might spark change, Jeremy Colliton has failed to change Chicago’s fortunes.
Chicago will take an NHL-worst minus-30 goal differential into Sunday’s game and has struggled throughout the season to score, which — coupled with the Blackhawks’ inability to contain opposing teams — has led to predictable results.
Frustration has set in on a team that, until recently, had not been accustomed to losing and that is now finding difficulty finding ways to win.
Of those fighting the frustration the hardest is goalie Corey Crawford, whose return from missing much of the season last year with a concussion was expected to make a difference, only to see the Blackhawks’ competitive issues continue.
Chicago has lost its past three games by a total of four goals.
“I don’t know how to deal with (losing),” Crawford told reporters Saturday, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Be pissed off? Let it go and keep playing? I really don’t know. It’s not a good position to be in. It’s definitely frustrating.
“I don’t know. Maybe our older guys, our core group, maybe we all need to play better to get us out of this. Maybe that’s the answer.”
Colliton has told his players to keep pushing for change.
“No one’s happy,” Colliton told reporters Saturday. “So you can’t expect guys not to show some frustration at times. What we need to do as a team is get right back at it.”