With all of the fanfare surrounding a refurbished rink on one of hockey's biggest stages, the Montreal Canadiens rose to the challenge. Now, not even a day later, they've returned home to do it all again.
Producing a far more boring hockey game than most members of the New York crowd imagined they were getting themselves into, the Canadiens rode some opportunistic scoring and goaltending to a 2-0 victory against one of the NHL's weaker teams. Faced with a similarly positioned opponent this evening, the Canadiens will look for a similar result.
After taking the night off for a front-row seat to Peter Budaj's second shutout as a Hab, Carey Price will resume his responsibilities this evening. Price has won only two of his five starts against the Stars in his career, allowing an unsightly five goals (.887 save percentage) in the process. Of course, Price's play to start 2013-14 has been far better than that, as he has kept the Canadiens steady even when the defence in front of him was less than consistent. With Douglas Murray back from injury and playing in front of CP31 for the first time, Price will hope that his new Big D can help him hold off the other Big D.
While Dallas possession play is not far off of what the Habs have produced this year, their inferior record may be partially attributable to an early-season absence of first string goalie Kari Lehtonen. With Lehtonen having earned the victory last night against the Sabres, Montreal may have the advantage of facing backup Dan Ellis instead. Ellis is 1-3 in his four starts this year, allowing 13 goals with an .895 save percentage. To put the disparity between the two goaltenders in perspective, Lehtonen has allowed only nine goals in his six starts to-date.
Dallas took on something of a new look in the off-season, sending everyone's most underrated player, Loui Eriksson, to the Boston Bruins in exchange for young star Tyler Seguin. The 21-year-old is already proving to be an offensive catalyst in Texas, sitting behind only Jamie Benn in team scoring with 12 points in 10 games. When reached for comment, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli unceremoniously broke into tears.
Habs fans will also recognize the face of Erik Cole, dealt to Dallas last December in the trade that brought Michael Ryder (and Connor Crisp!) to Montreal. Cole has struggled somewhat in his first ten games this year, putting only four points on the scoresheet and producing shots at half the rate he did during his full season as a Canadien. Cole recently attested to missing La Belle Province, so the Habs will have to hope that his return does not spark an offensive renaissance. Cole has been known to put up big numbers against Montreal in his career, so it will be a interesting to observe whether or not the trend continues in his post-Canadiens life.
Besides the apparent advantage between pipes, the Habs also look to have some advantage on special teams as well. Montreal's powerplay produced another goal last night, and ranks sixth in the league going into tonight's action. While the penalty kill was disappointing at first, it too has been better of late, as the Habs find themselves in the top ten in that regard. With Dallas posting bottom-third results to this point in both respects, Montreal may be able to leverage their special teams to some advantage on a night when both teams are in the second leg of a back-to-back.
For starting lineups, check out the game thread as we approach 7:00 PM ET. For the perspective of the Habs opponents tonight, and possibly some insight on how to say nice things about Douglas Murray, head over to Defending Big D.
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Canadiens vs Stars - Game Recap - Galchenyuk's controversial goal seals the win for the Habs
- Highlights of the Habs' win over the Rangers
- Retour sur le match Canadiens vs Rangers
- 2013-14 Game 13 - Montreal Canadiens vs Dallas Stars
- Tuesday Habs Links - Murray and Bouillon are not good