PREVIEW: Montreal Canadiens look to keep success rolling at home against Calgary Flames

Jan 20, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia (40) and forward Tyler Toffoli (73) celebrate Toffoli s first goal against the Vancouver Canucks in the second period during a game at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens will look to bring their road success home.

After opening the season with a half-dozen road games — in which they posted an impressive 4-0-2 record — the Canadiens finally hit the Bell Centre ice when they play host to the suddenly struggling Calgary Flames on Thursday night for their home opener, albeit without fans in the building.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Canadiens, check out #GoHabsGo rumors, rankings, and news here.

“We played in Western Canada and we felt the fans behind us,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think the fans are excited to watch our team. It’s up to us to have success at home. We struggled here last season. It’s a good challenge for us to compile a good record on home ice and continue to bring enjoyment and enthusiasm to the fans.”

The Canadiens return to Montreal on a roll. They’re coming off a pair of impressive, high-scoring victories against the Vancouver Canucks (with 7-3 and 5-2 scores). In that time, the hottest hand belonged to newcomer Tyler Toffoli, who has already racked up five goals and eight points and was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

The early returns have been huge for the Canadiens and Toffoli, who signed a four-year, $17-million contract as an unrestricted free agent.

“I was never too worried about coming to Montreal,” Toffoli said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about it here, and talking to guys who have played here before, they said the guys were great. Both have been nothing but true so far. The only thing that would make it better is if we could have fans for the home opener. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the way things are right now. I think we’re just excited to be home and to be playing back at home.”

The Flames have lost two straight games, both at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although both were one-goal games, they aren’t happy about them — especially Tuesday’s defeat in which they were outplayed to the point of being outshot 10-1 in the opening period.

“We just didn’t show up in the first,” said Johnny Gaudreau, who has seven points (four goals, three assists) in a five-game point streak to start the season. “We’re not going to win games that way. (We) played catch-up the whole game. We got a lot better in the second and third, but that was just an awful first period.”

It’s the second time in three games the Flames have been outclassed by a vast margin in the opening period, but that’s not the only problem coach Geoff Ward is seeing.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Flames, check out #NHLFlames rumors, rankings, and news here.

“We have to start on time and the second thing, for us, everything that we do has to come from the fact that we can check,” Ward said. “You can’t give up four goals in this league regularly and expect to win games. We have to be committed and mindful of the fact that we have to be really good away from the puck, especially against teams that are dangerous. … As a result, we end up on the short end.”

“It’s just simplicity,” forward Sean Monahan added. “When you start off a game, we’ve got to do a better job of getting pucks in and getting on our forecheck. When we do that and are turning pucks over, that’s when you generate momentum. We did that in the second and third (periods), but we want to do that early in games. … That’s when you start rolling with your momentum.”

–Field Level Media